Enlightened Economics

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Archive for the ‘Gold & Precious Metals’ Category

• Gold and Silver Rise Again as History’s Chosen Currencies

Posted by Ron Robins on March 13, 2011

By Ron Robins. First published February 25, 2011, in his weekly economics and finance column at alrroya.com

Gold, “the ancient metal of kings,” is reasserting itself as the currency of choice as it has done again and again since the earliest of human times. In our modern era, as central banks and governments fight to devalue their currencies to gain purported trade advantages, gold rises in value against them all. And central banks are buying gold again amidst serious doubts as to the size of some of their real physical gold holdings. Silver too is experiencing a similar re-emergence. The reasons for gold and, to a lesser extent, silver acting as currencies, are easy to understand.

Gold’s history as a currency extends back thousands of years. The western world’s first known standardised minting of gold currency took place in 564 BCE by King Croesus of western Asia Minor. However, it is also believed that China in the fifth and sixth century BCE, minted the Ying yuan gold coin as well. In the great Gupta Empire of India, from 320 to 550 CE, gold coins were used throughout its domain. And in the early Islamic world around the time of the Prophet Muhammad, the gold dinar coin led as its currency. In Europe, gold coins became an important or central monetary unit for the Greeks, Romans, Venetians, Dutch, Spanish and British.

During approximately 1870 to 1910 all major countries linked their currencies to gold, thereby adopting the gold standard. However, China was the exception preferring a silver-based standard. The first silver coins are reported as being minted by King Pheidon of Argos around 700 BCE.

Gold and silver have historically asserted themselves as monetary mediums due to their intrinsic value. They are consistent, divisible, durable and convenient, and they are nobody’s liability.

Unlike paper money, gold, particularly, has proven itself in maintaining its value over many centuries. The World Gold Council (WGC) says that, “since the 14th Century, gold’s purchasing power has maintained a broadly constant level… an ounce of gold has repeatedly bought a mid-range outfit of clothing… in the fourteenth century… in the late 18th century and… at the beginning of this century (2000 to 2008)… On the other hand, the US dollar that bought 14.5 loaves of bread in 1900 buys only 3/4 of a loaf today. While inflation and other forces have ravaged the value of the world’s currencies, gold has emerged with its capacity for wealth preservation firmly intact… [whether] in the face of financial turmoil… [as] a crisis hedge… [or] as an inflation hedge.”

Since their origins, central banks have realised the importance of gold, and sometimes silver, as a strategic part of their reserves. Commenting on the rapidly rising price of gold, Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, said in a Bloomberg report on September 9, 2009, that, “[the rising gold price is] an indication of a very early stage of an endeavor to move away from paper currencies… What is fascinating is the extent to which gold still holds reign over the financial system as the ultimate source of payment.”

And this is also because, “[the central banks] no longer trust each other… [and] there’s this perception that different countries are trying to weaken their currency in order to get a competitive advantage,” said Francisco Blanch, head of global commodity research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch at a New York City November 2010 conference, reports Fastmarkets. Among the countries whose central banks are increasing their gold reserves are China, India, and Russia—all countries with mammoth trade surpluses and foreign exchange reserves.

However, as throughout history, he who owns gold and how much he owns is often shrouded in secrecy. For a central bank, covertly selling and buying of gold and its currency can be used to secretly manipulate the value of its currency. Some indirect proof of this comes again from Mr Greenspan during testimony to a US Congressional committee in 1998. He remarked that, “central banks stand ready to lease gold in increasing quantities should the price rise.” Therefore, declaring the precise gold holdings of a central bank might be akin to giving away ‘trade secrets.’

Central banks worldwide supposedly hold around 30,000 tonnes of gold, perhaps 20 to 25 per cent of all the gold ever mined. But true independent verification of their holdings is not available. The US based Gold Anti Trust Committee (Gata) has compiled extensive and critical information concerning western central bank gold holdings. Their information and that from other sources suggests the actual physical gold holdings of some western central banks could be 30 to 50 per cent lower than publicly reported.

As an example, the US boasts official gold holdings of 8,133.5 tonnes. However, it is known that some, perhaps a significant portion of these holdings, have been leased out to various financial entities and might not be returned without huge financial losses. Ron Paul, the chairman of the influential US Congress’s Domestic Monetary Policy Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, is so concerned about such activities that he is calling for a full public audit of US gold holdings.

Additionally, gold is possibly set to play a reinvigorated role in the international monetary system. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as most members of the G20 are seeking alternatives to the US dollar as the world’s principal reserve asset. And in this regard, gold—perhaps silver too—could be included in a basket of currencies and commodities that create the basis for a new international unit of exchange (currency).

Moreover, an RBC survey of global financial executives and business leaders reported on Yahoo! Finance on February 3 that “just 52 per cent of respondents expect the dollar to be the world’s currency in five years,” and that “gold is coming back as a reserve currency ‘of sorts,’” says Marc Harris, head of global research at RBC Capital Markets.

Probably since the beginning of civilisation, gold especially, but silver as well, have served as monetary vehicles. Gold has demonstrated itself to hold its value over centuries and in many diverse cultures. And despite today’s sophistication with paper money, gold is still seen by central banks as the ultimate source of payment. Concerns are growing that the real physical gold holdings of some major central banks might be substantially lower than they have reported, and as they unabashedly devalue their paper money, gold and silver rise once again as history’s chosen currencies.

Copyright alrroya.com

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• Gold Price Suppression: The Hidden Truth

Posted by Ron Robins on December 10, 2010

By Ron Robins. First published November 25, 2010, in his weekly economics and finance column at alrroya.com

The evidence of gold price suppression is compelling—and little known. Much of what is said below about gold applies to the silver market too, where “fraudulent efforts to persuade and deviously control that [silver] price” have been found. So said Bart Chilton, one of the five commissioners of the US government’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) which oversees US commodities trading, on October 26.

Though fraud in the silver markets is being acknowledged by a key regulator, no such admission has come concerning the gold markets—yet. And there are probably some extraordinary reasons for this.

The increasing recognition and prominence of gold as a currency makes any discussion of gold price suppression disconcerting to numerous financial elites.

However, there is a long history of gold price suppression. In 1961, the London Gold Pool was established to maintain the gold price at $35 an ounce. The participants supplying gold to the Pool were the central banks of the US and some European countries. In 1968, the Pool dissolved due to the tremendous demand for gold that was created as monetary and currency conditions deteriorated in the US and Britain.

However, since about 1993—just like in the 1960s—mounting evidence again implicates a central bank and bank cartel attempting to suppress gold prices. It particularly affects the London physical gold market where about 90 per cent of the world’s gold is traded, and the ‘paper’ gold futures market of the NY Comex.

In London, the gold price is ‘fixed’ twice daily at GMT 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM by five big international banks dealing in bullion. In recent years a number of researchers studying the London gold price fixing data and the NY Comex gold futures markets have come to the conclusion that gold price suppression has existed for many years. Perhaps the first to indicate this was Dimitri Speck from Germany.

After performing detailed statistical gold price research, Mr Speck found that gold price suppression seems to have begun on August 5, 1993, when, “America’s strong-dollar policy was first officially introduced… Since then [and until the end of his study September 2005], gold price manipulation has been characterised by a pattern of sharp drops in prices during the New York [Comex] trading session.” See his articles, “Price Anomalies in the Gold Market,” December 5, 2005, and “10 Years Gold Price Manipulation: A Retrospective Look and a Chart Update,” August 3, 2003.

Eric deCarbonnel, in studying the gold prices during 2009, found a similar pattern. In, “Excellent Opportunity to Buy Gold,” December 23, 2009, he says, “by looking at these charts of the 24-hour spot price of gold, [in] four out of five trading days over a one-year period the [NY] Comex closed lower than the London AM [gold price] Fix.”

The third piece of research showing a similar pattern, but more extensive and up-to-date, is by Adrian Douglas who published his findings in, “The Failure of the Second London Gold Pool,” on August 19. He stated, “that had a trader consistently bought gold on the London AM Fix and sold it the same day on the London PM Fix and repeated it every day from April 2001 through to today [August 14, 2010] the cumulative loss would be $500 per ounce. Yet gold has been in a bull market during that time and a ‘buy and hold’ strategy over the same time period would have returned a gain of $950 per ounce.”

Others who have found apparent malfeasance in the gold market include Reg Howe, James Turk, and Frank Veneroso. Mr Veneroso’s research suggests that actual, physical, global central bank gold holdings might be 30 to 50 per cent lower than reported.

Despite suppression efforts, the gold price has risen about five-fold since 2001, to over $1,300 today. According to the renowned gold trader Jim Sinclair and others, much of the reason for gold’s ongoing strength comes from physical gold buying in the Asian gold markets. Gold, incidentally, trades around the world on an almost 24-hour basis, Monday to Friday.

But who and why would anyone want to suppress gold prices today? In my article, Manipulated Markets Can Cause Ruin, I wrote, “gold is the ‘anti-dollar’ and barometer of confidence in the dollar.” Therefore—and noting Mr Speck’s observation that the most recent era of gold price suppression began with America’s declaration of a ‘strong dollar policy’—providing a possible clue as to who might be behind it. Also, such an entity would require incredible financial muscle.

The most likely candidate for leading a gold price suppression scheme is the US Treasury and various central banks who want to maintain the US dollar’s value. After all, US dollar denominated assets often form more than 60 per cent of most central bank assets and it is still the ‘global currency.’ Therefore they have powerful, strategic reasons to want a strong dollar.

Also, as recently as October 18, the US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner reiterated the US strong dollar policy by saying, “we’re going to work very hard to make sure that we preserve confidence in the strong dollar.”

With the advent of investors and regulators acknowledging fraud in the silver markets, those behind the apparent gold price suppression must be incredibly worried as their scheming to suppress its price is no longer hidden.

Copyright alrroya.com

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• Gold Lust Re-Emerges

Posted by Ron Robins on December 9, 2010

By Ron Robins. First published May 22, 2010, in his weekly economics and finance column at alrroya.com

Why the emerging lust for gold? Concerns of excessive debt and potential inflation are mostly influencing gold’s rise. But other factors are in play too. These include ancient and new cultural and spiritual attitudes towards the metal, as well as apparently failing manipulation schemes.

Cultural and spiritual reasons for gold’s rise
In China, which is fast becoming the world’s largest gold market, gold historically and culturally stands for good luck. The very symbol of Chinese culture, the golden dragon, represents happiness, procreation, and immortality. In India, which likely still has the world’s biggest private hoards of gold, the Vedic tradition associates the metal with purity of life, immortality, truth, magnificence—and has long been revered as money and the store of wealth. In ancient Persia, Egypt, and throughout the Middle East, gold is often referred to in divine terms and considered the only true money.

In recent years, a possibly rapidly growing (though of unknown magnitude) new source of gold buying has arisen. Respected sociologist Paul Ray has identified a group he labels ‘Cultural Creatives’ (CCs). These CCs form the backbone of most New Age movements and other spiritual groups, many of whom buy gold for purported spiritual benefits. According to Dr. Ray, CCs probably number around 25-30 per cent of adults in most developed countries and are likely to form majorities in those countries in the next ten to twenty years.

Alleged failing gold market manipulation increases gold price
A major factor influencing the gold market is alleged gold market manipulation. Gold market manipulation has existed since the earliest of times. Its deep cultural and historical significance has been the bane of kings, emperors and modern day central bankers. Monetary systems based on gold tended to be restrictive, therefore inhibiting the ability of kings and governments to finance wars, etc. By contrast, paper (fiat) currency systems are able to create credit and debt at will, hence all modern societies have chosen paper-based currencies and attempted to reduce and suppress the role of gold.

The attempt to control the role of gold in the modern world has, according to the Gold Anti Trust Action Committee (GATA), been onerous. GATA claims the U.S. Treasury, The Federal Reserve and other governments and central banks have collaborated to suppress its price. GATA has extraordinary documentary evidence of this. One instance of how gold suppression has been working is a quote from the former head of the U.S. Federal reserve, Alan Greenspan. In testimony to the Committee on Banking and Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives, on July 24, 1998, he said that “… central banks stand ready to lease gold in increasing quantities should the price rise.” Evidence by James Turk, Dimitri Speck, Eric deCarbonnel, and others suggests that they have done that and more over the past decade.

Also, backing up GATA’s claim, Michael Gray wrote in the New York Post, May 9, 2010, ”Federal agents have launched parallel criminal and civil probes of JPMorgan Chase and its trading activity in the precious metals market.” JPMorgan Chase has very close ties with the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve. Considering the fact that a major New York daily has published this story, it has received remarkably little attention. Why the media silence? I believe it exhibits an ingrained cultural bias to keep a lid on gold suppression so as to minimize the increasing loss of confidence in major currencies.

However, as is obvious from the rising gold price, if price suppression had been working it does not seem to be functioning too well at present. Central banks may have lost too much gold in loaning and selling into the gold markets to keep its price down. Also, they are now realizing it may well be the best asset to hold. Incidentally, nobody knows for sure how much gold the U.S. government has as the last public audit of its gold reserves was in 1971.

Gold as currency
In the time of the Prophet Muhammad the gold dinar was the currency of exchange. In Europe, the Greeks, Romans, Venetians, Dutch, Spanish and British, all found gold to be the ideal currency. As a currency, gold has the advantage of having a value in and of itself. It is also durable, divisible, convenient, relatively rare, and cannot be ‘manufactured.’

In recent years, the Gulf Cooperation Council proposed a common currency, which some key supporters want backed by gold. Throughout the Muslim world a cultural monetary renaissance is occurring as a return to the ancient gold dinar as a principle form of currency is debated. The Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi’s top hotel, has even introduced an ATM offering gold bars. Internationally, the proposed revised Special Drawing Rights of the International Monetary Fund may also have a commodity component that includes gold.

The re-emergence of gold as the alternative currency is gaining momentum. This appears to be not only because of the current monetary debacle affecting paper currencies, but also due to purchasing of the metal by those re-discovering its cultural underpinnings, by those valuing its purported spiritual properties, and the increasing failure of central banks in suppressing its price. As the lust for gold gains momentum, it again reveals itself as the ancient metal of kings.

Copyright alrroya.com

Posted in Finance & Investing, Gold & Precious Metals, Monetary Policy, Personal Finance | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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