Home » Posts tagged 'Gold as an investment'
Tag Archives: Gold as an investment
The 9 Key Considerations To Protect Deposits From Bail-Ins
By Mark O’Byrne
Today’s AM fix was USD 1,222.75, EUR 891.22 and GBP 750.89 per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,243.50, EUR 902.79 and GBP 758.51 per ounce.
Gold fell $26.40 or 2.11% yesterday, closing at $1,226.50/oz. Silver slid $0.79 or 3.89% closing at $19.52/oz. Platinum dropped $19.01, or 1.4%, to $1,360.74/oz and palladium fell $20 or 2.7%, to $715.25/oz.
Gold has spiked higher in late morning trade in London and is 0.6% higher on the day and 0.35% higher for the week. A higher weekly close this week will be positive from a technical perspective.
Gold saw a sharp move lower by over 2% yesterday, despite little market moving data or news and other assets seeing less price movement. The price fall could have been due to heightened speculation of a Fed taper as soon as next week. However, if that was the case, one would have expected stocks to have seen similar price falls. Rather stocks were only marginally lower and remain near record highs.
Peculiar gold price falls have been common in recent weeks and months and have contributed to the 25% price fall we have seen this year.
Therefore, those who have diversified into gold in order to protect their wealth will welcome the move by the German financial regulator Bafin to widen their investigation into manipulation by banks of benchmark gold and silver prices.
The FT reports on the front page today that German banking regulator Bafin has demanded documents from Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank, as part of a probe into suspected manipulation the gold and silver markets by banks.
Currently, gold fixing happens twice a day by teleconference with five banks: Deutsche Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia-ScotiaMocatta, Barclays Bank Plc, HSBC Bank USA, NA and Société Générale. The fixings are used to determine prices globally. Deutsche Bank is also one of three banks that take part in the equivalent process for silver.
The German regulator has been interrogating the bank’s staff over the past several months. Since November, when the probe was first mentioned similar audits in the U.S. and UK are also commencing.
Premiums in China and India remained robust overnight and way over western premiums. Gold on the Shanghai Gold Exchange closed at $1,258.38 at 0700 GMT – a premium of $29.18 per ounce over spot.
Bullion premiums in western markets have seen little movement again this week. One ounce gold bars are trading at $1,276.44/oz or premiums of between 3.75% and 4.5%, and larger 1 kilo gold bars are trading at $40,832/oz or premiums of between 3% and 3.5%.
Indian demand declined yesterday but remains robust as dealers were not able to source gold.
Premiums remained steady at $120 per ounce over London prices. Last week, Indian premiums hit a record high of $160/oz. Imports into India have dropped off sharply this year after the Indian government raised the import duty to 10% earlier this year and tied imports volumes to exports, in a bid to curb a rising trade gap and the rush to gold by Indians concerned about the continuing devaluation of their rupee.
If the Fed defer a taper, we should see gold bounce from oversold levels which could help it test $1,300/oz again.
We do not believe the Fed will ‘taper’ next week as the U.S. economy remains very fragile and any reduction on bond purchases could lead to turbulence in financial markets, a rise in bond yields and affect the wider economy.
But if the Fed does reduce its massive bond buying programme marginally next week, gold will likely fall to test strong support at $1,200/oz again.
Gold looks likely to bounce back next year and the positive drivers for gold are strong store of wealth physical demand, particularly in China, due to macroeconomic, systemic and monetary risk.
The eurozone debt crisis is far from resolved and sovereign debt issues in Japan, the UK and the U.S. will likely rear their ugly heads again leading to safe haven demand for gold.
We pointed out yesterday why it is important to remember that the Federal Reserve is printing nearly $20 billion every single week. The U.S. National Debt is now over $17.2 trillion and continuing to rise and the U.S. has unfunded liabilities (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) of between $100 trillion and $200 trillion.
Staggering numbers which suggest alas that the U.S. politicians are rearranging chairs on the titanic.
What Should Depositors Do To Protect Against Bail-In?
Depositors in G20 or FSB regulated countries should examine the financial health of their existing bank or banks.
Some issues to watch would include institutions with legacy issues such as a high level of non-performing loans, a possible need for recapitalisation and low credit ratings. These banks should be avoided, as they have a higher chance of needing restructuring and hence a higher chance of a bail-in.
Deposits are insured for up to €100,000, £85,000 and $100,000 per person, per account in the EU, the UK and the U.S. respectively. Although there is no guarantee that an insolvent government will be able to fund its deposit insurance scheme, it is uninsured deposits which are more at risk of a bail-in.
Therefore, it would be prudent for depositors not to hold bank deposits in excess of these figures in any one financial institution since –
a) they are not insured, and
b) deposits in excess of those arbitrary figures are more likely to be bailed in
There is an assumption that in the event of bail-in, only bank deposits of over these arbitrary figures would be vulnerable. However, there is no guarantee that this would be the case. Should a government be under severe financial pressure, it may opt to only protect deposits over a lower amount (e.g. €50,000, £50,000, $50,000).
Since capital controls have already been imposed on one Eurozone country, Cyprus, it seems quite likely that they will be imposed in other countries in the event of new banking crises or a new global systemic crisis.
Cypriot authorities imposed restrictions on bank money transfers and withdrawals, including a daily cash withdrawal limit of €300 per day. Many banks had to restrict withdrawals to €100 per customer per day in order to prevent them running out of euros. Electronic wire transfers were suspended for a number of days, prior to being allowed but with a low maximum daily limit.
Therefore, having some of one’s savings outside of the banking system makes sense. It should be held in a form that is highly liquid, such as gold, and can be converted back into cash in the event of cash withdrawal restrictions. Cypriots who owned gold were less affected by the deposit confiscation or ‘haircut’ as they could sell their gold in order to get much needed euros.
In the coming years, the role of gold in an investment portfolio will become more important due to its academically and historically proven safe haven qualities. Now, with the risk of bail-ins, savers and corporate treasurers should consider diversifying their savings portfolio and allocate 5% to 10% of the overall savings portfolio to gold.
However, it will not be enough to simply allocate funds to some form of gold investment. In the same way that certain banks are more risky than others, so too are many forms of gold speculation and investment more risky than others.
It is vitally important that those tasked with diversifying deposits do not jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.
An allocation to actual physical gold owned with the safest counterparties in the world will help depositors hedge the not insignificant risk of keeping money on deposit in many banks today.
It is important that one owns physical gold and not paper gold which could be subject to bail-ins.
Physical gold, held in allocated accounts conferring outright legal ownership through bailment
remains the safest way to own gold. Many gold investment vehicles result in the buyers having very significant, unappreciated exposure and very high counterparty risk.
Owning a form of paper gold and derivative gold such as an exchange traded fund (ETF) in which one is an unsecured creditor of a large number of custodians, who are banks which potentially could be bailed in, defeats the purpose of owning gold.
Potentially, many forms of gold investment themselves could be bailed in and the FSB’s inclusion of Financial Market Infrastructures in potential bail-ins including “central counterparties, insurers, and the client assets held by prime brokers, custodians and others” underlines the importance of owning unencumbered assets that are owned directly.
Extensive research shows that owning gold in an investment portfolio enhances returns and reduces the entire portfolio’s volatility over the long term. In the coming years, a diversified savings portfolio with an allocation to gold, will reduce counterparty risk and compensate for very low yields.
The wise old Wall Street adage to always keep 10% of one’s wealth in gold served investors well in recent years. It will serve those attempting to safeguard deposits very well in the coming years.
In general, people should avoid holding euros or other cash outside of their bank accounts, however there is now a case to be made that holding a small amount of cash outside of vulnerable banks would be prudent. Just enough cash to provide for you and your family’s needs for a few weeks.
However, this should never be done unless the cash is held in a very secure way, such as a well hidden safe or safety deposit box. It would be safer not to keep assets in a safety deposit box in a bank.
Overall, diversification of deposits now has to be considered.
This means diversification across financial institutions and across countries or jurisdictions globally.
Financial institutions should be chosen on the basis of the strength of the institution. Jurisdictions should be chosen on the basis of political and economic stability. A culture and tradition of respecting private property and property rights is also pertinent.
While depositors need to do their own due diligence in which banks globally they may wish to open a bank account, Table 1 (see From Bail-Outs to Bail-Ins: Risks and Ramifications) illustrates that there are numerous banks globally which are still perceived to be financially strong. The banks in table 1 have been ranked by taking the average long term issuer credit rating applied to the bank by the main global credit rating companies, Moody’s, S&P and Fitch.
A credit rating is an assessment of the solvency or creditworthiness of debtors or bond issuers according to established credit review procedures. These ratings and associated research help investors analyse the credit risks associated with fixed income securities by providing detailed information of the ability of issuers to meet their obligations. A rating is continuously monitored. It enables investors and savers to measure their investment risk.
Long term credit ratings of the major agencies take into account factors such as financial fundamentals, operating environment, regulatory environment, corporate governance, franchise value of the business, and risk management, as well as the potential financial support available to the bank from a parent group, or a local or national government.
While credit ratings express an opinion on a bank’s vulnerability of defaulting, they don’t quantify the probability of default. However, credit ratings are still widely used and are one of the most commonly used ways of ranking the relative financial strength of banks.
The credit rating reflects the credit risk or general paying ability of the issuer, and so reflects the solvency or creditworthiness of the issuer from the point of view of investors who, along with depositors, are the main creditors of the bank. Certain countries host more financially strong banks than others as can be graphically seen in the table.
Notice that many of the safest banks in the world are in Switzerland and Germany.
Indeed, it is interesting to note that despite the Eurozone debt crisis, many of the safest banks in the
world are in the EU or wider Europe. These include banks in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France – despite many French banks being very vulnerable as is the French sovereign.
Outside of Europe, Singapore has some very strong banks, as does Norway, Australia, Canada and Sweden.
There are only a few UK and U.S. banks on the list of global top banks that should give pause for thought.
There are a number of institutions in jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, Chile, Japan and some Middle Eastern countries. As of yet, banks in the large emerging markets have not made their mark but we would expect banks in China, Russia, Brazil and in India to begin moving up the table in the coming years. The sounder sovereign position and lack of public and private debt in these countries will help in this regard.
There are no banks from problem European economies on the list for good reason. Their banks do not have high enough credit ratings. In fact, banks from Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland consistently had relatively low long term ratings from the ratings agencies. In terms of ratings, they rank nowhere near the top 20 banks in the world and most are ranked between 200 and 400.
Besides considering the relative safety of different banks, with interest rates so low on bank deposits and increasing taxes on interest earned on deposits leading to negative real interest rates – depositors are not being rewarded with adequate yields to compensate for the risk to which they are exposed.
Thus, as is often the case, savers need to consider alternatives to protect their wealth
Without a clearly thought out plan, many will be prey for the financial services sales machine and brokers and their array of more risky investment and savings products – including so called “capital guaranteed” products – many of which are high risk due to significant and unappreciated counterparty risk.
It is vitally important that investors have independent custodians and trustees. This greatly reduces counterparty risk should a broker, financial adviser, insurance company or other financial institution become insolvent.
9 Key Considerations
Depositors internationally should examine the financial health of their existing bank or banks. Overall, diversification of deposits now has to be considered. However, it is vitally important that those tasked with diversifying deposits do not jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. This means diversification across financial institutions and across countries or jurisdictions globally.
Financial institutions should be chosen on the basis of the strength of the institution. Jurisdictions should be chosen on the basis of political and economic stability. A culture and tradition of respecting private property and property rights is also important.
1. Diversify savings across banks and in different countries
2. Consider counterparty risk and the health of the deposit-taking bank
3. Attempt to own assets outright and reduce risk to custodians and trustees
4. Own physical gold in allocated accounts with outright legal ownership
5. Avoid investments where there is significant counterparty risk, such as exchange traded
funds and many structured products
6. Avoid banks with large derivative books and large mortgage books
7. Monitor banks’ and institutions’ financial stability
8. Monitor deposit and savings accounts’ terms and conditions
9. Monitor government policy pertaining to banks and bank deposits
Download Protecting your Savings In The Coming Bail-In Era (11 pages)
On November 1st, 1961, an agreement was reached between the central banks of the United States and seven European countries to cooperate in achieving a shared, and very clearly stated, aim.
The agreement became known as the London Gold Pool, and it had a very explicit purpose: to keep the price of gold suppressed “under control” and pegged regulated at $35/oz. through interventions in the London gold market whenever the price got to be a little… frisky.
The construct was a simple one.
The eight central banks would all chip in an amount of gold to the initial “kitty.” Then they would sell enough of the pooled gold to cap any price rises and then replace that which they had been forced to sell on any subsequent weakness.
*Statement is subject to standard terms and conditions and is not necessarily reflective of any evidence. Government entities are excluded from inclusion based on the fact that we can’t really do anything about them and anyway; they could put us out of business; and it would make things really, really bad for them. Also, bullion banks are not covered under this statement because we were told to turn a blind eye; but individual investors are, and we can categorically confirm that, to the best of our knowledge, no individuals are manipulating the precious metals markets (at this time).
But, as Grant Williams explains in this excellent and complete summary of the history of Gold price manipulation, things don’t always go as planned…
Human beings, when given means and motive, have rather a poor history of eschewing the easy profit in favour of doing the right thing. Governments, when faced with dilemmas, have a rather poor history of doing the right thing as opposed to whatever they think they need to do in order to cling to power. It’s quite simple.
Libor, FX rates, and mortgages trades are all fiat in nature. The contracts that are exchanged have no tangible value. (Yes, technically speaking, mortgages have houses underneath them, but the houses are so far down the securitization chain as to be invisible). Such contracts can be created at the push of a button or the stroke of a pen and manipulated easily right up until the point where they can’t.
Gold is a different beast altogether.
The manipulation of the gold price takes place in a paper market — away from the physical supply of the metal itself. That metal trades on a premium to the futures contract for a very good reason: it has real, intrinsic value, unlike its paper nemesis.
If you want to manipulate the price of a paper futures contract lower, you simply sell that paper. Sell it long, sell it short, it doesn’t matter — it is a forward promise. You can always roll it over at a later date or cover it back at a profit if the price moves lower in the interim.
And of course you can do it on margin.
If the trading were actually in the metal itself, then in order to weaken the price you would have to continue to find more physical metal in order to continue selling; and, as is welldocumented, there just isn’t so much of it around: in recent years what little there is has been pouring into the sorts of places from which it doesn’t come back — not at these price levels, anyway.
The London Gold Pool had one thing in common with the rigging of the FX, Libor, and mortgage markets: it worked until it didn’t.
The London Gold Pool proved that central banks can collude cooperate to rig maintain the price of gold at what they deem manageable levels, but it also proved that at some point the pressure exerted by market forces to restore the natural order of things becomes overwhelming, and even the strongest cartels groups (whose interests happen to be aligned) — which are made up of the very institutions granted the power to create money out of thin air — can’t fight the battle any longer.
…The problem now is that currently there arealmost 70 claims on every ounce of gold in the COMEX warehouse and serious doubts about the physical metal available for delivery at the LBMA.
Which leads us to today…
The London Gold Pool was designed to keep the price of gold capped in an era when the world’s reserve currency had a tangible backing. In defending the price, the eight members of the Pool were forced to sell way more gold than they had initially contributed in order to keep the price from going where it desperately wanted to go — higher.
This time around, the need for the price to be capped has nothing to do with any kind of gold standard and everything to do with the defense of the fractional reserve gold lending system, about which I have written and spoken many times.
Gold is moving to ever stronger hands, and when the dam does inevitably break again, the true price will be discovered by natural market forces, free of interference.
This time, however, those chasing what little gold is available will include all those central banks that have kept their holdings “safe” in overseas vaults.
The Bundesbank has seen the writing on the wall and demanded its gold back. They were told it would take seven years before their 30 tonnes could be returned to them.
My guess is, this little scheme doesn’t have seven years left to play out.
Everybody outta the pool!
Full Grant Williams letter here:
There was a time when the merest mention of gold manipulation in “reputable” media was enough to have one branded a perpetual conspiracy theorist with a tinfoil farm out back. That was roughly coincident with a time when Libor, FX, mortgage, and bond market manipulation was also considered unthinkable, when High Frequency Traders were believed to “provide liquidity”, or when the stock market was said to not be manipulated by the Fed, and when the ever-confused media, always eager to take “complicated” financial concepts at the face value set by a self-serving establishment, never dared to question anything. Luckily, all that changed in the past several years, and it has gotten to the point where even the bastions of “serious”, if 3-5 years delayed, investigation are finally not only asking how is the gold market being manipulated, but are actually providing answers.
Such as Bloomberg.
The topic of gold market manipulation during the London AM fix is not new to Zero Hedge: in fact we have discussedboth the historical basis and the raison d’etre of the London gold fix, as well as the curious arbitrage available to those who merely traded the AM-PM spread, for years. Which is why we are delighted that none other than Bloomberg has decided to break it down for everyone, as well as summarize all the ways in which just this one facet of gold trading is being manipulated.
Every business day in London, five banks meet to set the price of gold in a ritual that dates back to 1919. Now, dealers and economists say knowledge gleaned on those calls could give some traders an unfair advantage when buying and selling the precious metal. The London fix, the benchmark rate used by mining companies, jewelers and central banks to buy, sell and value the metal, is published twice daily after a telephone call involving Barclays Plc, Deutsche Bank AG, Bank of Nova Scotia, HSBC Holdings Plc and Societe Generale SA.
The fix dates back to September 1919, less than a year after the end of World War I, when representatives from five dealers met at Rothschild’s office on St. Swithin’s Lane in London’s financial district. It was suspended for 15 years, starting in 1939. While Rothschild pulled out in 2004 and the discussions now take place by telephone instead of in a wood-paneled room at the bank, the process remains much the same.
That much is known. What is certainly known is that any process that involves five banks sitting down (until recently literally) and exchanging information using arcane methods (such as a telephone), on a set schedule that involves a private information blackout phase, even if temporary, and that does not involve instant market feedback, can and will be gamed. “Traders involved in this price-determining process have knowledge which, even for a short time, is superior to other people’s knowledge,” said Thorsten Polleit, chief economist at Frankfurt-based precious-metals broker Degussa Goldhandel GmbH and a former economist at Barclays. “That is the great flaw of the London gold-fixing.”
There are other flaws.
Participants on the London call can tell whether the price of gold is rising or falling within a minute or so, based on whether there are a large number of net buyers or sellers after the first round, according to gold traders, academics and investors interviewed by Bloomberg News. It’s this feature that could allow dealers and others in receipt of the information to bet on the direction of the market with a high degree of certainty minutes before the fix is made public, they said.
Yes, the broader momentum creation and ignition perspective is also known to most. At least most who never believed the boilerplate that unlike all other asset classes, gold is somehow immune from manipulation.
“Information trickles down from the five banks, through to their clients and finally to the broader market,” Andrew Caminschi, a lecturer at the University of Western Australia in Perth and co-author of a Sept. 2 paper on trading spikes around the London gold fix published online in the Journal of Futures Markets, said by phone. “In a world where trading advantage is measured in milliseconds, that has some value.”
Ah, hypothetical – smart. One mustn’t ruffle feathers before, like in the case of Libor, it becomes fact that everyone was in on it.
There’s no evidence that gold dealers sought to manipulate the London fix or worked together to rig prices, as traders did with Libor. Even so, economists and academics say the way the benchmark is set is outdated, vulnerable to abuse and lacking any direct regulatory oversight. “This is one of the most concerning fixings I have seen,” said Rosa Abrantes-Metz, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business whose 2008 paper, “Libor Manipulation?” helped spark a global probe. “It’s controlled by a handful of firms with a direct financial interest in where it’s set, and there is virtually no oversight — and it’s based on information exchanged among them during undisclosed calls.”
Unless we are wrong, there was no evidence of Libor manipulative collusion before there was evidence either. And since the cabal of the London gold fix is far smaller than the member banks of Libor, it is exponentially easier to confine intent within an even smaller group of people. But all that is also known to most.
As is the fact that when asked for comments, ‘spokesmen for Barclays, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Societe Generale declined to comment about the London fix or the regulatory probes, as did Chris Hamilton, a spokesman for the FCA, and Steve Adamske at the CFTC. Joe Konecny, a spokesman for Bank of Nova Scotia, wrote in an e-mail that the Toronto-based company has “a deeply rooted compliance culture and a drive to continually look toward ways to improve our existing processes and practices.”
Next, Bloomberg conveniently goes into the specifics of just how the gold price is manipulated first by the fixing banks, then by their “friends and neighbors” as news of the fixing process unfolds.
At the start of the call, the designated chairman — the job rotates annually among the five banks — gives a figure close to the current spot price in dollars for an ounce of gold. The firms then declare how many bars of the metal they wish to buy or sell at that price, based on orders from clients as well as their own account.
If there are more buyers than sellers, the starting price is raised and the process begins again. The talks continue until the buy and sell amounts are within 50 bars, or about 620 kilograms, of each other. The procedure is carried out twice a day, at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. in London. Prices are set in dollars, pounds and euros. Similar gauges exist for silver, platinum and palladium.
The traders relay shifts in supply and demand to clients during the calls and take fresh orders to buy or sell as the price changes, according to the website of London Gold Market Fixing, which publishes the results of the fix.
.. only this time the manipulation is no longer confined to a purely theoretical plane and instead empirical evidence of the fixing leak is presented based on academic research:
Caminschi and Richard Heaney, a professor of accounting and finance at the University of Western Australia, analyzed two of the most widely traded gold derivatives: gold futures on Comex and State Street Corp.’s SPDR Gold Trust, the largest bullion-backed exchange-traded product, from 2007 through 2012.
At 3:01 p.m., after the start of the call, trading surged to 47.8 percent above the average for the 20-minute period preceding the start of the fix and remained 20 percent higher for the next six minutes, Caminschi and Heaney found. By comparison, trading was 8.7 percent higher than the average a minute after publication of the price. The results showed a similar pattern for the SPDR Gold Trust.
“Intuitively, we expect volumes to spike following the introduction of information to the market” when the final result is published, Caminschi and Heaney wrote in “Fixing a Leaky Fixing: Short-Term Market Reactions to the London P.M. Gold Price Fixing.” “What we observe in our analysis is a clustering of trades immediately following the fixing start.”
The researchers also assessed how accurate movements in gold derivatives were in predicting the final fix. Between 2:59 p.m. and 3 p.m., the direction of futures contracts matched the direction of the fix about half the time.
From 3:01 p.m., the success rate jumped to 69.9 percent, and within five minutes it had climbed to 80 percent, Caminschi and Heaney wrote. On days when the gold price per ounce moved by more than $3, gold futures successfully predicted the outcome in more than nine out of 10 occasions. “Not only are the trades quite accurate in predicting the fixing direction, the more money that is made by way of a larger price change, the more accurate the trade becomes,” Caminschi and Heaney wrote. “This is highly suggestive of information leaking from the fixing to these public markets.”
Oh please, 9 out of 10 times is hardly indicative of any wrongdoing. After all, JPM lost money on, well, zero trading days in all of 2013, and nobody cares. So if a coin landing heads about 200 times in a row is considered normal by regulators, then surely the CTFC will find nothing wrong with a little gold manipulation here and there. Manipulation, which it itself previously said did not exist. But everyone already knew that too.
Cynicism aside, to claim that this clearly gamed process is not in fact gamed, not to say criminally manipulated (because it is never manipulation unless one is caught in the act by enforcers who are actually not in on the scheme) is the height of idiocy. Which is why we are certain that regulators will go precisely this route. That too is also largely known. Also known are the benefits for traders who abuse the London fix:
For derivatives traders, the benefits are clear: A dealer who bought 500 gold futures contracts at 3 p.m. and knew the fix was going higher could make $200,000 for his firm if the price moved by $4, the average move in the sample. While the value of 500 contracts totals about $60 million, traders may buy on margin, a process that involves borrowing and requires placing less capital for the bet. On a typical day, about 4,500 futures contracts are traded between 3 p.m. and 3:15 p.m., according to Caminschi and Heaney.
Finally what is certainly known is that the “London fixing” fix would be very simple in our day and age of ultramodern technology, and require a few minutes of actual implementation.
Abrantes-Metz, who helped Iosco formulate its guidelines, said the gold fix’s shortcomings may stretch beyond giving firms and clients access to privileged information. “There is a huge incentive for these banks to try and influence where the benchmark is set depending on their trading positions, and there is almost no scrutiny,” she said.
Abrantes-Metz said the gold fix should be replaced with a benchmark calculated by taking a snapshot of trading in a market where $19.6 trillion of the precious metal circulated last year, according to CPM Group, a New York-based research company. “There’s no reason why data cannot be collected from actual prices of spot gold based on floor or electronic trading,” she said. “There’s more than enough data.”
Which is precisely why nothing will change. Sadly, that is also widely known.
So did Bloomberg put together an exhaustive article in which virtually everything was known a priori? it turns out the answer is no: we learned one thing.
London Gold Market Fixing Ltd., a company controlled by the five banks that administers the benchmark, has no permanent employees.A call from Bloomberg News was referred to Douglas Beadle, 68, a former Rothschild banker, who acts as a consultant to the company from his home in Caterham, a small commuter town 45 minutes south of London by train. Beadle declined to comment on the benchmark-setting process.
You learn something new every day (incidentally, the same Douglas Beadle who acted as a consultant to the LBMA until March 2010 and was involved from the outset in the project to find a suitable scale for the electronic weighing of gold as documented in “Electronic Weighing of Gold – A Success Story“).
Led by countries such as Russia and China, central banks have recently become net buyers of gold. Meanwhile, ETF gold outflows have been a temporary source of supply this year, but obviously this cannot persist. It’s also unreasonable to assume that recycling will make up a significantly greater piece of supply without the price of gold increasing substantially. With the grade of current producing gold mines being 32.6% higher than undeveloped deposits, it makes the supply scenario even more clear. Not only is the current yearly mine supply difficult to sustain, but future mines coming online will be challenged by grade and margins to be economical at today’s prices. Mathematically, unless we have high-grade, high ounce deposits that are being fast tracked online, it will be very difficult to find a way to get supply to match demand. Have we reached peak gold?
(click image for large legible version)
Guest Post: Finland’s Gold | Zero Hedge. (source)
On Wednesday Finland gave in to public pressure and revealed where she stores her gold reserves. The statement followed a press release by the Bank of Sweden on similar lines released on Monday.
The totals (in tonnes) for these two Scandinavian countries are as follows:
|Bank of England||61.4||25.0|
|New York Fed||13.2||8.8|
|Swiss National Bank||2.8||3.4|
|Bank of Finland||–||2.0|
|Bank of Canada||33.2||–|
So far, so good. But then the Head of Communications for the Bank of Finland added some more information in Finnish in a blog run on the Bank’s website. It is not available in English, so I asked her for a translation, but I am still waiting.
Instead, a Finnish reader of my own blog and a Finnish journalist who has been following this topic have independently given me an English translation of a highly relevant and interesting paragraph, three from the end. This is the journalist’s:
“Maximum half of the gold has been within investment activity over the years. Gold has been invested among other things in deposits similar to money market deposits and using gold interest rate swaps. Gold investment activity is common for central banks. The risks associated with gold investments are controlled using limits, investment diversification and limitations concerning duration.”
And my reader’s translation:
“Throughout these years no more than half of the gold has been invested. Gold has been invested in for example deposits similar to money market deposits and gold interest rate swap agreements. Gold investment activities are common for central banks. Risks related to gold investments are controlled with limits, decentralising investments and limits regarding run times.”
Half Finland’s gold is stored at the Bank of England, and “no more than half” is “invested”. If any “investment” is to take place it would be in London. It is not immediately clear what is meant by invested, but presumably this is a result of translation of what has happened from English into Finnish plus explanation for a non-specialist readership. However if it has been invested, then by definition it is no longer in the possession of the Bank of Finland, and will most probably have been sold into the market in return for a promise to redeliver at a later date. This follows the Austrian National Bank’s admission to a parliamentary committee a year ago that it had earned EUR300m by leasing its gold through London.
The evidence is mounting that Western central banks through the Bank of England have been feeding monetary gold into the market through leasing operations. Indeed, the Finnish blog says as much: “Gold investment activities are common for central banks”.
This explains in part how the voracious appetite for gold by China, India and South-East Asia is being satisfied, without the gold price rising to reflect this demand. It is also consistent with my disclosure earlier this year of the discrepancy of up to 1,300 tonnes between the gold in custody as recorded in the Bank of England’s Annual Report, dated 28th February 2013 and the amount recorded on the virtual tour on the Bank’s website the following June.
- LBMA Collapse To Expose US, Europe & BIS Gold Is Gone (wchildblog.com)
- Where’s Finland’s Gold? (lewrockwell.com)
Economic policy and the price of gold
Then the rumour circulated that at night the Fed Governors neglected their sacrifices and prayers. A great depression seized everyone. One day the President said to the Fed Chief, “When will we celebrate the return of normal unemployment rates? I would like to make a journey and return in time for the feast. How long is it until the day of the feast?” The Fed Chief was embarrassed. It had been several days since she had looked at the moon and the stars. She had learned nothing more about their courses. The Fed Chief said, “Wait one more day and I will tell you.” The President said, “Thank you. Tomorrow I will come to see you again.”
The Fed Chief gathered the Fed Governors together and asked, “Which of you lately has observed the course of the stars?” None of Fed Governors answered, because they had all stayed to listen to the stories of Fiat-do-lar. The Fed Chief asked again, “Hasn’t even one of you observed the course of the stars and the position of the moon?”
— modified from The Ruin of Kasch
Economics isn’t a science. It is a mistake to think it would be so. Science does not have schools. Only philosophies have schools.
The difference between a science and a philosophy is the difference between seeking truth while honestly admitting you don’t know it and declaring that truth is something you define.
Ideally science is described by working hypotheses, which are constantly tested, and if falsified, replaced (unless pride is involved or money). In philosophy, you begin with axioms, which are untestable statements that are defined as being true. Each school of economics has its own set of axioms. From axioms, you apply rules of inference (logic) in order to generate new statements, which are also true. These generated statements are called theorems. Thus all theorems are true (within the school of philosophy) but not necessarily applicable to the real world!
In the early days of geology, there were competing schools: the Neptunists and thePlutonists being two that come to mind immediately. The Neptunists believed that all rocks formed in the sea, either as sediments, or by crystallization as salts (this was their central axiom). The Plutonists believed that all rocks formed from magma (as their central axiom). Debates between adherents of the two schools were rowdy, fruitless affairs, because the nature of philosophy is that it cannot be overturned by mere observations.
The distinction between science and philosophy with respect to economics is important because economists have an annoying ability to set policy–policy that affects the quality of your lives. It probably doesn’t matter much to you whether some geologists can’t decide among themselves whether a particular rock formed in the sea or on a volcano (or even on a volcano in the sea). But it does make a difference if some Fed official acts on her belief thatbankrupting the elderly eliminating interest on savings is a cure for unemployment.
Application of economic policy follows the axiomatic approach. Some high priest of an obscure caste
Recently, The World Complex presented the inverse correlation between the unemployment rate in the UK and its “confidence ratio” (dollar value of public debt divided by the dollar value of gold holdings). The idea was that a high ratio could only be supported if bondholders had high confidence that the debt would be properly serviced (forget about repayment). The flip side is that a high ratio could be interpreted as a measure of a country’s ruin.
In the article I had suggested that government economists might cheer a decline in the price of gold.
So today, we look at the same relationship for the United States.
Once again we see a strong inverse relationship between confidence ratio and unemployment.
One of the goals set out for the Federal Reserve is to manage the unemployment rate. Looking at this chart, the answer is clear–to reduce unemployment, increase the confidence. Confidence (as defined above) can be increased in three ways: 1) raise debt, 2) sell gold, 3) lower the gold price.
Of course we all know that correlation does not imply causation. But it doesn’t have to in order to impact on Fed policy. That’s the beauty of politics–reality and truth don’t really matter when there are elections to be won.
There was a comment that perhaps I have too much time on my hands. I’m not sure if the intent was to say that only someone with a lot of time on his hands would notice this relationship. The economists at the Fed have far more PhD’s and time on their hands than does this corner of webspace. So I’m sure they have already seen this.
So the question becomes–even if no causation can be established, can it be used to set policy? And what policies will be followed?
Raising debt is the old standby–but as we see in the clarified chart below, it doesn’t seem to be working anymore.
Since the 2001 peak (on September 10, perhaps?), the increasing debt has been more than compensated by the rising price of gold. Don’t be fooled into thinking the US is sinking into solvency–it is creating debt faster than any time in history. But the price of gold has been rising faster still (although we shall see about 2013).
It appears that policy #2, the sale of gold, is politically untenable. Officially at least. Selling gold is for lesser countries. So that leaves option #3–hope the price of gold falls. Perhaps they do more than hope.
. . . at first the story of Fiat-do-lar was like hashish when it makes wakefulness happy. Then the story was like hashish when it makes dreams delirious. Toward morning, Fiat-do-lar raised his voice. As the Nile rises in the hearts of men, so his words swelled. To some, his words brought serenity; to others, they were as terrifying as the appearance of Azrael, the angel of death. Happiness filled the spirits of some, horror the hearts of others. The closer morning came, the mightier that voice grew and the more it resounded within the people. The hearts of men rose up against one another like clouds in the sky on a stormy night. Flashes of wrath met thunderbolts of fury. When the sun rose, the tale of Fiat-do-lar reached its end. Ineffable wonder filled the confused minds of the people. For when the living looked around, their gaze fell upon the Fed Chief and Governors. They were stretched out on the ground, dead.
— modified from The Ruin of Kasch
- David Morgan explains the manipulation of the price of gold (marketsanity.com)
- Guest Post: Gold And The Four Words That Define Western Economic Policy (zerohedge.com)
- What You Need To Know About The Real Price of Gold (etfdailynews.com)
- What’s Affecting Gold Prices Today? (tradethenewsroom.com)
Jim Grant Warns America’s Default Is Inevitable | Zero Hedge (FULL ARTICLE).
“There is precedent for a government shutdown,” Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, remarked last week. “There’s no precedent for default.”
How wrong he is.
The U.S. government defaulted after the Revolutionary War, and it defaulted at intervals thereafter. Moreover, on the authority of the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the government means to keep right on shirking, dodging or trimming, if not legally defaulting.
Default means to not pay as promised, and politics may interrupt the timely service of the government’s debts.The consequences of such a disruption could — as everyone knows by now — set Wall Street on its ear. But after the various branches of government resume talking and investors have collected themselves, the Treasury will have no trouble finding the necessary billions with which to pay its bills. The Federal Reserve can materialize the scrip on a computer screen….
- 12 Very Ominous Warnings About What A U.S. Debt Default Would Mean For The Global Economy (rinf.com)
- A Suddenly Nervous China Tells The US To “Earnestly Take Steps” To Avoid A Default (zerohedge.com)