Emerging World buys $10 billion in gold as West wobbles

By Amanda Cooper
Reuters
August 3, 2011

Central banks of emerging market countries such as Korea and Thailand have added more than $10 billion (6 billion pounds) of gold to their reserves this year in a sign of waning faith in the West’s benchmark bonds and currencies like the dollar and the euro.

International Monetary Fund data for June Wednesday showed Thailand bought gold for the second time this year, raising its reserves by nearly 19 tonnes to over 127 tonnes, while Russia bought another 5.85 tonnes, bringing its reserves to 836.7 tonnes, the world’s eighth largest official stash of the metal.

So far in 2011, emerging market central banks have bought nearly 180 tonnes of gold, more than double the roughly 73 tonnes purchased by central banks globally in the whole of 2010.

The spot price of gold has risen by more than 17 percent this year to a record $1,672.65 an ounce, driven chiefly by investor concerns over the impact on the developed world’s economy of its debt burdens and sluggish growth.

Mexico has been the largest buyer of gold in the year to date, with $5.3 billion worth of purchases, or 98 tonnes of gold, followed by Russia, which has bought 48 tonnes, worth $2.6 billion at current prices.

Earlier this week, Korea confirmed it had bought 25 tonnes of gold in June and July.

“Central banks evidently do not regard the price level as too high and are diversifying their currency reserves. This was the first purchase of gold for the Korean central bank in over ten years,” said Commerzbank metals analyst Daniel Briesemann.

“Gold’s high-altitude flight still appears to be supported by many factors and an end to the boom soon is not in sight.”

In the euro zone, smaller economies such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland have already sought emergency funding, while concern is mounting over the finances of some of the region’s larger members such as Spain and Italy, driving the euro to record lows against the safe-haven Swiss franc.

The United States averted an unprecedented debt default on Tuesday after lawmakers reached an eleventh-hour deal to raise the country’s borrowing limit, although severe doubts remain about the economic outlook, stripping 6 percent off the value of the dollar this year.

DEBT MISERY

The U.S. economy is also likely to lose its top-notch credit rating as ratings agencies are increasingly discomfited by the weight of the twin trade and budget deficits and the country’s patchy growth.

A downgrade will almost certainly push up yields on U.S. Treasury notes as their value falls, which could prove unwelcome to the major investors in U.S. debt such as the Chinese government, which holds nearly $900 billion in Treasuries.

The trend among central banks, particularly those with large foreign exchange holdings, to diversify some of their portfolios into gold from currencies has been well established over the last couple of years.

“The market generally expects central banks with growing reserves and small gold holdings to buy gold,” said Jesper Dannesboe, senior commodity strategist at Societe Generale.”

“So I don’t think that is particular surprising, but it does support the bullish story (for gold),” he said.

Central banks are expected to remain net buyers of gold this year and the most likely buyers will be those with the biggest reserves and relatively small bullion holdings, such as China.

The Chinese central bank is the sixth largest official owner of gold, yet its holdings account for just 1.6 percent of its $2.5 trillion total reserves.

The IMF data showed Russia, Kazakhstan, Greece, Ukraine and Tajikistan also added to their reserves two months ago and feature among some of the bigger bullion buyers this year.

Kazakhstan’s reserves rose for the third time this year, by 3.11 tonnes in June to 70.434 tonnes, Taijikistan’s reserves rose 0.04 tonnes to 3.036 tonnes and Greece and Ukraine added 0.03 tonnes each, bringing their official holdings of gold to 111.506 tonnes and 27.744 tonnes, respectively.

Russia has added to its gold reserves every month for the past five years, according to the IMF’s data.

Ron Paul Embarrasses Ben Bernanke as he says Gold is not Money

Forbes
July 13, 2011

Chairman Ben Bernanke faced-off with Fed-hating Representative Ron Paul during his monetary policy report to Congress on Wednesday.  The head of the Fed was forced to respond to accusations of enriching already rich corporations while failing to help Main Street, while he was pushed on his views on gold.  “Gold isn’t money,” Bernanke said. (See video below).

While most of Bernanke’s reports to Congress serve politicians to pursue their own agendas by gearing the Chairman towards their issues, with Republican Rep. Bacchus talking of the unsustainability of Medicaid and Rep. Frank (D, Mass.) asking about the need to raise the debt limit without cutting spending, it was a stand-off between Bernanke and Ron Paul that took all the attention. (Read Apocalyptic Bernanke: Raise The Debt Ceiling Or Else).

Rep. Ron Paul, Republican for Texas, asked Bernanke why a capital injection of more than $5 trillion “hasn’t done much” to help the consumer, who makes up about two-thirds of GDP in the U.S., and prop up the economy, while it helped boost corporate profits.  “You could’ve given $17,000 to each citizen,” Ron Paul claimed.

Bernanke, clearly on the defensive, told Rep. Ron Paul that his institution hadn’t spent a single dollar, rather, the Fed has been a “profit center” according to the Chairman, returning profits to the federal government.  As Bernanke began to sermon Rep. Paul on the history of the Fed (“we are here to provide liquidity [in abnormal situations],” the Chairman said), he was interrupted.

“When you wake up in the morning, do you think about the price of gold,” Rep. Paul asked.  After pausing for a second, Bernanke responded, clearly uncomfortable. that he paid much attention to the price of gold, only to be interrupted once again.

“Gold’s at about $1,580 [an ounce] this morning, what do you think of the price of gold?” asked Rep. Paul.  A stern-faced Bernanke responded people bought it for protection and was once again cut-off, with Ron Paul once again on the offensive.

“Is gold money?” he asked.  Clearly bothered, Bernanke told the representative “no, gold is not money, it’s an asset.  Treasuries are an asset, people hold them, but I don’t think of them as money,” said Bernanke.

Rep. Ron Paul again jumped in, noting the long history of gold being used as money, and then asked Bernanke why people didn’t hold diamonds, clearly hinting at his fiat money criticism of the U.S. monetary system.  The Fed Chairman told Rep. Paul it was nothing more than tradition, and, as he was attempting to develop his argument, Rep. Ron Paul quickly asked the acting authority of the House of Representative’s Committee on Financial Services, Rep. Bacchus, to excuse him for exceeding his time, as he returned the floor to the Committee. (Read Bernanke To Rep. Paul Ryan: QE2 Created 600,000 Jobs).

The interesting exchange served as one of the few times Bernanke has been publicly pushed off his comfort zone by an elected official.  Rep. Ron Paul brought up the issues that he’s famous for, namely, a sort of allegiance between the Fed and the nation’s most powerful institutions, the illusion of fiat money, and the gold standard.  Bernanke, angered and bothered, had no option but to respond. (Read Bernanke’s Contradiction: Minutes Reveal QE3 Talk And Exit Strategy).