World Gold Council
Despite Bernanke's previous protestations that "gold is not money... it is tradition," in an effort to mobilise 20,000 tonnes of unproductive gold owned by Indian households into cash, Reuters reports that - after unveiling the gold monetisation scheme on Feb 28th, India's FinMin Arun Jaitley released bank guidelines overnight on interest rates, reserve and liquidity ratios. The scheme "allows gold to become a dynamic, fungible asset in the hands of gold savers," offering incentives (interest payable in gold) to convince households, who sometimes have little faith in financial institutions, to break the tradition and hand over gold passed down the generations.
With each passing year the currency fell in value to ever more absurd depths until by November 1923 an ounce of gold - which had cost 170 Marks only five years previously - was trading at 87,000,000,000,000 Marks per ounce. Silver saw similar price gains (see chart) - or rather to put it more accurately silver too remained a store of value and maintained purchasing power as the currency collapsed.
While sentiment towards gold in the West is abysmal - even as gold languishes at record lows when adjusted for inflation - Asian demand remains insatiable. It would be wise for investors to inform themselves as to why this should be so. Demand for gold in Asia is often written off by Westerners as an irrational impulse of uneducated Asian peasant farmers and workers.
Gold prices jumped overnight on initial rumors and again in the last hour as Indian officials note that March Gold imports surged to 125 tons (more than double last March's 60 tons). As Reuters reports, Gold imports in the fiscal year 2014/15 ended March 31 jumped to 900 tonnes, up 36% from a year ago. Surging imports are helped by a falling price since the beginning of the year combined with the relaxation of government (capital control) import restrictions, and despite further efforts by the government to "monetize gold."
"If the RMB wants to achieve international status, it must have popular acceptance and a stable value. To this end, other than having assurance from the issuing nation, it is very important to have enough gold as the foundation, raising the ‘gold content’ of the RMB. Therefore, to China, the meaning and mission of gold is to support the RMB to become an internationally accepted currency and make China an economic powerhouse. That is why, in order for gold to fulfill its destined mission, we must raise our gold holdings a great deal, and do so with a solid plan. Step one should take us to the 4,000 tonnes mark, more than Germany and become number two in the world, next, we should increase step by step towards 8,500 tonnes, more than the US."
- Song Xin, Party Secretary and President of the China Gold Association
There is a story being told to the masses about Chinese gold demand that is grossly incorrect. The huge discrepancy between numbers from the World Gold Council (WGC) and actual gold demand is so wide yet cunningly hidden I must conclude there is essential information about physical gold demand deliberately kept privy.
It may signal that the ECB and Eurozone are set to embark on a gold accumulation programme. More likely, it is simply a way to bolster confidence in the euro due to increasing doubts about the viability of the single currency.
Central bank gold buying surged another 17% last year as countries outside of the Western hemisphere continue to stockpile the only currency with no counterparty risk.
The “perfect-storm” of geopolitical instability, diplomatic isolation, severe currency depreciation, and economic decline now confronting Russia has profoundly damaged Moscow's international standing, and possibly for the long-term. Yet, it is precisely such conditions that may push the country’s leadership into taking the radical step that will secure its world-player status once and for all: the adoption of a gold-exchange standard.
After significant buying in recent years, some may have questioned if this would continue in 2014. The answer was loud and clear: central bank net purchases amounted to 477t over the year, 17% above 2013’s impressive 409t. This represents the second highest year of central bank net purchases for 50 years, after the 544t addition to global gold reserves reported in 2012. Russia had by far the greatest appetite amongst those who raised gold reserves. The country accumulated an additional 173t (36% of total central bank demand in 2014) over a turbulent 12 months. 2014 was bookended by tension and uncertainty for the country: geopolitical antagonism with the Ukraine, and the resulting international sanctions, at the beginning of the year was followed by severe economic distress towards the end.
Given that Russia perceives itself to be under financial and economic attack from the West, there is the possibility that they are accumulating more gold than they are declaring officially to the IMF.
De Nederlandsche Bank, the Dutch central bank has denied reports in Reuters, Bloomberg and picked up by GoldCore, that the bank had increased its gold holdings for the first time in sixteen years. IMF data had shown that the Dutch had increased their holdings to 622.08 tonnes.
2014 may go down as the year when gold and silver conspiracy “theories” became conspiracy “facts” as banks globally were found to have conspired to rig the prices of gold, silver, currency and many other markets.
For those wondering where US shale exploration and production companies will be in about 2-3 years, look no further than the gold miners, where the disconnect between undaunted physical demand and relentless paper supply (after rebounding above 0%, GOFO is once again negative through the 3 month mark), and where high production costs and low selling prices, after two years of balance sheet pain, is finally leading many over the cliff. Case in point, Canadian gold-miner San Gold, which had a capitalization of over $1 billion in 2010 just filed for bankruptcy protection. It isn't the first gold-miner to wave the white flag, and it certainly won't be the last.
The World Gold Council’s recommendations are far from crazy...
Every year, David Collum writes a detailed "Year in Review" synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year's is no exception. "I have not seen a year in which so many risks - some truly existential - piled up so quickly. Each risk has its own, often unknown, probability of morphing into a destructive force. It feels like we’re in the final throes of a geopolitical Game of Tetris as financial and political authorities race to place the pieces correctly. But the acceleration is palpable. The proximate trigger for pain and ultimately a collapse can be small, as anyone who’s ever stepped barefoot on a Lego knows..."