May 26, 2024

Gold’s Fundamental Role In The Financial System

By Vin Maru

It is currently estimated that the largest 110 central banks have 16% of their reserves as gold.  Anyone who follows the gold market knows that many central banks have become net buyers of gold in the last few years, and the pace of accumulation seems to be growing.  While central banks continue to accumulate gold, the misinformed mainstream media are still chanting the “gold is in a bubble” mantra.   What they are not acknowledging is the clear evidence that the highest level of bankers and regulators are proposing that gold become a Tier 1 asset class with zero risk, which can also be used for collateral in financial transactions.

Recently, we wrote an article about a proposal made by the FDIC to make rule changes and allow gold bullion to be recognized as a Tier 1 asset class with zero percent risk weighting.  Even the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), which is the central bank for central banks, is considering reclassifying gold as a risk-free assets as part of the Basel III framework. In their recent progress report, on page 26 under the section for other assets, they state the following (in footnote 32):

“At national discretion, gold bullion held in own vaults or on an allocated basis to the extent backed by bullion liabilities can be treated as cash and therefore risk-weighted at 0%.”

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision is an international regulatory agency that brings together banking regulators from 27 nations including the US, the UK, and China. This past week they published a draft of standards which creates “International consistency” with regards to margin requirements and seek tougher rules for non-centrally cleared swaps in the over-the-counter derivatives market.  This proposal helps to align rules for the $648 trillion market for OTC derivatives in which regulators are seeking tougher oversight after the 2008 collapse.  The proposal sets out a partial list of assets that companies can use as collateral for trading in the OTC derivatives market.  It includes a range of financial instruments to be used as collateral, including cash, government debt, “high-quality corporate and covered bonds,” gold and equities listed on “major” stock exchanges.   This is just another example of how the gold role in the financial system is changing; it is becoming viewed as a safe asset class to hold as collateral.  If implemented, financial firms trading in the OTC derivative market will be able to use gold as collateral for posting and meeting margin requirements.

The evidence is clear as day when you look at the facts.  Gold is moving towards the financial system, not away from it.  The bankers and regulators are now considering rule changes to introduce gold back into the financial system.  If these proposals take effect in January 2013, the world will realize that gold is here to stay; maybe even MSM will warm up to the idea that gold is a safe asset to own.  The only question is at what price gold will be trading at when all this happens.

The current weakness during the summer doldrums seems like a good time to accumulate physical while support holds above $1530.   If the paper manipulators decide to push gold below support, it should be short lived and expect a quick rebound to current prices.  The worlds financial problems have not gone away, the debts continue to grow, and inflation by way of the printing press is here to stay.  Gold may not cure all of the world’s financial problems, but it is here to stay and the gold bull run is far from over.  Expect to see higher prices in 2013 and beyond, especially as the central bankers and regulators voluntarily introduce gold back into the financial system as a risk free, Tier 1 asset class.

Hard asset advocates have always known the value of owning and holding gold.  Central bankers and regulators are now finally acknowledging gold’s value in the monetary system as an asset class.  Next year MSM will be touting the virtues of owning gold once again.  The key is to be ahead of this curve before it happens.  If any of these proposals take effect, you want to be ahead of the herd as more and more banks and financial institutions stampede towards gold in the years ahead.


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Gold Bullion Coin Sales Plunge 63% In November and 20% YTD – Have Americans Given Up On Gold?

Total sales of American Gold Eagle bullion coins plunged in November according to production figures from the U.S. Mint.

Total sales of gold U.S. Mint bullion coins declined by 63.4% in November from the previous year.  Sales of U.S. Mint gold bullion coins declined by 19.5% on a year to date basis through the end of November.  A total of 41,000 ounces were sold in November 2011 compared to sales of 112,000 ounces in November 2010.  Year to date sales through November totaled 934,500 ounces compared to the previous year to date totals of 1,160,500 ounces.

The reduction in the purchase of U.S. Mint gold bullion coins continues a trend of reduced sales since the record breaking year of 2009 when a total of 1,435,000 ounces were sold.  Total gold bullion sales  for 2011 will probably slip below one million ounces for the first time since 2009.  If sales decline in December by the same percentage amount as in November, total 2011 sales of gold bullion coins will come in at 956,500 ounces.

A summary of gold mint bullion coin sales since 2000 is shown below.

Gold Bullion Sales Since 2000

Gold Bullion U.S. Mint Sales Since 2000
Year Total Ounces Sold
2000 164,500
2001 325,000
2002 315,000
2003 484,500
2004 536,000
2005 449,000
2006 261,000
2007 198,500
2008 860,500
2009 1,435,000
2010 1,220,500
2011 934,500
Total 7,184,000

Why would gold bullion coin sales be plunging when gold has been steadily rising?  Have Americans given up on gold?  Let’s look at various trends in gold sales to get some perspective.

-Annual sales of gold bullion exceeded a half million ounces only once before 2008.  The financial crash of 2008 precipitated concerns about the integrity of both the banking system and the U.S. dollar, causing a huge increase in demand for physical gold.  Gold bullion sales exploded higher in 2008 and sales for 2011 remain far above levels seen prior to 2008 despite the recent drop in sales.

-Based on the current price of gold, the total value of all gold bullion purchased from the U.S. Mint since 2000 is $12.6 billion.  This amount represents only a fraction of the amount of investment dollars that have flowed into gold over the past decade.  In addition to purchasing physical gold, investors now have the option to purchase gold through gold trust ETFs.  The amount of money poured into the gold trust ETFs is many multitudes greater than the investment in physical gold bullion coins.  For example, since their inception in 2005, the combined gold holdings of the SPDR Gold Shares Trust (GLD) and the iShares Gold Trust (IAU) have grown to 47.2 million ounces valued at $82.5 billion.

-Gold ETFs have grown exponentially from their inception a short six years ago but the largest gold ETF, the SPDR Gold Shares Trust (GLD), has not been able to exceed its record gold holdings of 1,320.47 tonnes reached on June 29, 2010.  In addition, billionaire John Paulson recently liquidated a substantial portion of his GLD holdings, although much of the selling may have been forced due to severe losses in his hedge funds.

-Gold trader sentiment is either bullish or bearish, depending on who you talk to.

-Central banks, which have been increasing their purchases of gold since 2000, have sharply accelerated their purchases of gold bullion over the past several years.  Central banks from Asia and Latin America have accounted for most of the increased purchases.

-According to the World Gold Council, global gold investment demand increased by 33% in the 2011 third quarter compared to the prior year.  Investment demand for gold bars and coins increased by 29% and global gold holdings by gold trust ETFs increased by almost 78 tonnes.  Demand for gold increased notably during the third quarter in Europe and China.

While it is indisputable that global gold demand has increased, the appetite for gold by U.S. investors seems to be diminishing.  What do you think?



Will Central Banks Continue To Increase Their Gold Holdings?


Central banks continued to add to their gold reserves in August with three countries adding a total of 643,000 troy ounces to their reserves.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the largest central bank purchaser of gold during August was Thailand which purchased 300,000 troy ounces, bringing their total gold holdings to 4.4 million ounces.  The Bolivian central bank purchased 225,000 ounces increasing their total reserves to 1.36 million ounces and the central bank of Russia purchased 118,000 ounces which increased total reserves to 27.2 million troy ounces.

After selling gold reserves for many years, central banks began purchasing gold around 2000.  Over the past several years central banks have sharply accelerated their purchases of gold to diversify away from the U.S. dollar which is no longer considered to be a safe asset.  China and Russia, large buyers of gold, have been particularly critical of U.S. monetary and fiscal policies and are actively seeking to reduce their reserve holdings of U.S. dollars.

Will central banks continue adding to their gold reserves?  For some insight on this matter, consider the following facts.

In August Russian Prime Minister Putin said that the United States is “not living within its means, shifting the weight of responsibility  on other countries and in a way acting as a parasite.”  Putin also said that a new reserve currency is necessary to protect against a “systemic malfunction” of the U.S.  Putin has reason to worry since Russia has almost half of its reserves in U.S. dollars.  In 1998 Russia had gold reserves of 14.7 million ounces compared to 27.2 million ounces after its latest purchases.  Despite the fact that the Russian central bank has the eight largest official gold holdings in the world, gold amounts to only 8.2% of total reserves.

China, which holds $1.2 trillion of U.S. treasury debt, has the most to lose from the continuous debasement of the U.S. dollar and has become harshly critical of U.S. economic policies.  After the U.S. debt downgrade in August, China said that America must “cure its addiction to debts” and “live within its means.”   China is actively seeking to diversify its reserves and reduce its holdings of  U.S. dollars.  The latest reports show total Chinese gold reserves at 1,054 tonnes compared to 395 tonnes in 1988.   Gold holdings amount to only 1.6% of total Chinese reserves.  China’s 33.9 million ounces of gold is currently valued at only $54.2 billion.  By comparison, the gold holdings of the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (GLD) total 39.9 million ounces valued at $65.6 billion.  Expect China to add dramatically to its gold reserves in the future.

Gold purchases by central banks during 2011 are forecast to be 336 metric tonnes, approximately 13% of total yearly gold mine production.  Central banks during  the second quarter of 2011 purchased four times the amount of gold purchased during the comparable quarter of 2010.  Given the fragile state of the world fiat money system, it is likely that central bank gold purchases could expand dramatically going forward.

Only 7 countries or institutions currently hold more than 1,000 tonnes of gold – the United States, Germany, the IMF, Italy, France, China and Switzerland.

Total official world gold holdings by central banks and the IMF currently total 30,707 tonnes, valued at approximately$1.6 trillion which, coincidentally, is the size of this year’s budget deficit for the United States.  Total gold holdings of the world’s central banks amount to only a fraction of the value of paper currencies that have been exponentially created.

All of the gold mined throughout history totals only 178,000 tonnes or about 6 billion ounces valued at $9.6 trillion.  Central bank holdings amount to only 17% of the total gold supply available.

Despite increasing gold prices, gold mine production has been stagnant.  Most of the easy to mine, high grade ore deposits have already been exploited.  New total yearly gold production adds only 1% per year to the existing supply of gold.  Increasing demand and limited supply result in higher prices.

Only 34 central banks currently hold over 100 tonnes of gold and only 12 central banks or institutions hold more than 500 tonnes of gold.

Ironically, the United States, the most indebted nation in world history has decreased its gold reserves.  In 1962, the United States owned 14,269 tonnes of gold or almost 39% of all gold held by central banks.  By 1972, the United States held only 8,584 metric tonnes of gold.  Currently, U.S. gold reserves allegedly total 8,134 tonnes but the amount remains in question since the government will not allow an independent audit of the actual amount held.

Considering the relatively small amount of gold held by central banks and the exponential increase in the creation of paper money, gold demand by central banks should  increase dramatically in the future.