The Dutch Central Bank Answers 10 Questions About Its Gold

Three weeks ago, the Dutch asked their central bank where their gold is. The central bank has responded. Courtesy of Vrijspreker, here are both the replies, as well as the key follow up questions. And while the bulk of the answers are expectedly trite, and generic form, "DNB’s physical gold holdings function as the ultimate reserve and anchor of trust in times of financial crisis. Further, gold is being held for diversification reasons." This appears just slightly different from our own Chairman's definition of gold as mere barbarous tradition.

From Vrijspreker.

We repeat the questions of the Dutch Socialistic Party with the answers of the Secretary, and follow up with first comments of the Vrijspreker. We think further questions are justified!

Question —Answer—Comment

1. Did the Dutch Central Bank (DNB) loan part of their gold?
If yes, how much and to whom?

No. DNB has informed me that they have stopped loaning out gold as of 2008.

 Comments Vrijspreker: if so, why doesn’t DNB make that clear in the annual report? Why hide such crucial information.

2. Why are gold and gold loans stated as one line item in the annual report 2010 instead of mentioned as 2 separate items?

DNB follows the rules for valuation, determination of result and balance sheet presentation of the European system of Central Banks. The asset ‘Gold and Gold Receivables’ reflects the physical gold inventory.

 Comments Vrijspreker: good international accounting standards oblige companies to separate cash from receivables, as they’re clearly different. Why wouldn’t these standards apply to central banks? In times of increasing civil unrest because of opaque financial schemes being set up by governments, central and commercial banks and the demand for more transparency, how would you justify these special rules for central banks? Are they above the law?

3. Can you give an overview of the yearly yields of the gold loans during the past years?

No gold has been loaned out over the past years.

4. Where IS the physical gold of DNB? At which locations and how much is where?
What is the reason that the gold is still at these locations?

DNB has a location policy, which means that the gold has been spread over the following locations: New York, Ottawa, London and Amsterdam.

 Comments Vrijspreker: why doesn’t the Secretary answer all the questions? What is the amount per location? And what exactly is the location policy?  Why New York instead of any random other city? Also it’s important to know how often and by whom the vaults are audited.

5. What was the most important reason for DNB to sell the gold in the past? Are the storage costs a reason? What are the actual costs to store the gold?

By selling gold in the past, DNB has tried to align its gold holdings with other gold holding countries. The storage costs were not a factor in the decision to sell the gold, because they are relatively low. Currently, DNB’s total annual storage costs paid to other central banks amount to a few hundreds of thousands of euros. The costs vary per location.

Comments Vrijspreker: why would DNB want to align its gold holdings with other central banks’ holdings? Is there a coordinated central policy amongst all central banks? Has this been prescribed by the Bank of International Settlements? Are the recent gold purchases by developing countries’ central banks not conflicting with this international policy. Could you outline the details of this policy?

6. Can you confirm that since 1991 of the 1700 tons of gold about 1100 tons have been sold?
Is the remark of journalist Peter de Waard correct that because of these historic sales there is a loss of about 30 billion euro?
If not correct, what is the right amount?

Since 1991, 1,100 tons of gold have been sold. Back then it was concluded that DNB held relatively much gold compared to other central banks. Decided was to align the amount of gold with other important gold owning countries. Sales proceeds have been added to DNB’s general reserves and have been invested in interest generating investments. Comparing the actual, as a result of the financial crisis, higher gold price with the historical gold price does indeed lead to more or less the amount as mentioned by Mr. De Waard. However, one has to take into account the investment income generated since selling the gold and the fact that the result of said calculations heavily depend of the strongly fluctuating price of gold.

Comments Vrijspreker: again, why align the gold holdings with that of other central banks? What exactly is the purpose of that policy?

7. How much of the National Debt has during the past 20 years been paid off with the proceeds of the gold sales? Are you of opinion that the sustainability of the national debt will be improved by paying off the debt and at the same time selling the gold?

Gold is an asset of DNB. The sales proceeds have been invested in other assets and have hence not been used to reduce the national debt. The return on investments will flow back to the Dutch government as a result of DNB’s dividend payments.

8. What is in your opinion the present function of the gold stock?

DNB’s physical gold holdings function as the ultimate reserve and anchor of trust in times of financial crisis. Further, gold is being held for diversification reasons.

 Comments Vrijspreker: clearly DNB sees value in gold. For that reason, it needs to be more transparent, and so should all central banks.

9. What is the relation between the size of the market of the gold stock and the size of the market of gold derivates? What are the possible consequences of this?

The size of the physical gold market and derivatives market cannot easily be compared because of diverging measures for the size. For the trade in physical gold the turnover is measured: in the most important market (London) this amounted to USD 136 billion in the second half of 2010 according to the London Bullion Market Association. For the derivatives market the underlying value of outstanding derivatives (swaps, future contracts and options) is of importance. For the second half of 2010 these amounted to USD 396 billion according to the Bank of International Settlements. In general one can say that the availability of derivatives markets promote efficient price discovery.

10. Can you confirm that recently a number of countries have even enlarged their physical gold stock? Do you have an explanation for this development?

Buyers are developing economies that show strongly growing official reserves or where gold traditionally only constituted a small portion of the reserves. There is also a wide group of countries that have sold gold the past decade (including France, Spain, UK and Switzerland)