Should the Governments Buy GOLD?

 

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The World Gold Council reports that the world’s central banks hold roughly 29,000 tons of Gold. Photo by Richard Perry/ New York Times.

 (Article reprinted from The New York Times,  Aug. 2, 2011.)

 

 Introduction

Private investors and central banks have scrambled in recent years to stock up on gold. This summer, they drove the price over $1,600 an ounce for the first time ever.

For millennia, people have killed and died in pursuit of gold. In the recent downturn, so many investors have been eager to buy gold that it is sold in vending machines. Governments are as captivated by it as individuals are: for nearly a century, many nations’ central banks have stashed hoards of gold bullion in a vault at the New York Federal Reserve.

When asked recently why central banks hold gold rather than, for instance, diamonds, Ben Bernanke said “tradition.” Given the long history of humans considering gold valuable, does it make sense to continue this tradition, or should central banks focus on other assets with more intrinsic value?

Debater 1:   It Had to Be Gold

By Sanat K. Kumar, who spoke to “Planet Money” about gold in February,  is chairman of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Columbia University.

Anyone trying to think of some other element or compound to take the role of gold should consider why it has been used as a currency since time immemorial. If we are looking for something to be useful as currency, we need a commodity that meets a few requirements: First, its composition must be easy to define. It should also be relatively immutable, but not so inert that it cannot be purified into the form that is acceptable as an asset. It should be rare but not so rare that it is impossible to find. It is easy to see how ancient civilizations came to consider gold a magical, mythical material: it satisfied all these demands.

Gold is relatively unreactive, but it has a low enough melting point that it could be processed easily by past civilizations. In contrast, something like platinum, which is also relatively inert chemically, has a melting point of 3,000 degrees Celsius. This made platinum almost impossible to process until relatively recently. Similarly, gold is rare in the earth’s crust, but there is enough of it to go around.

Still, times have changed. Let us consider the issue today: Processing is no longer a problem. We can readily purify elements like platinum, rhodium and others, or we can synthesize any desired compound to practically any degree of purity. The issue of contamination is also no longer germane.

Thus the only modern requirements for an asset are rarity and immutability — and a suite of compounds and elements would qualify. So gold is no longer the one and only thing that could be used as an asset. Indeed, Ben Bernanke is correct — the argument for it is simply tradition. The value placed on gold comes from an emotional attachment handed down to us from our ancestors.

Debater 2:  A Proven Asset

By Ron Paul, a United States representative from Texas who is running for president for the third time, is the founder of Campaign for Liberty. He is the author of “The Revolution: A Manifesto” and “End the Fed.”

No asset has intrinsic value. An object is only valuable insofar as it is able to satisfy the wants and needs of individuals, and its value is determined by the subjective judgments of individuals. No other commodity has been as universally valued over time and across as many societies as gold.

Gold satisfies all the properties of money. It is durable, portable and easily divisible into bars and coins that share uniform properties. It is easily recognizable through visual, tactile, chemical and other means. Gold’s value and purchasing power are stable over time, as its supply grows slowly and it cannot be created ad infinitum as paper or digital currency can be.

Because of these properties, gold has always been considered an ideal store of value and medium of exchange, and central banks have always sought to hold it because it is the ultimate monetary backstop. When society and the monetary system break down, even if nothing else is accepted as a medium of exchange, gold still will be.

The Federal Reserve does not actually own gold; it only holds gold certificates as an asset. It is the Treasury Department that claims ownership of United States gold reserves. Historically, gold itself circulated as money, in the form of coins. Paper currency began to circulate for the sake of convenience, but these were only promissory notes that could be redeemed in “lawful money,” i.e. gold, on demand. Once the use of paper currency was established and most gold was held in bank vaults, the government seized the gold and left the people holding paper that could no longer be redeemed for gold. The paper currency was immediately devalued by 40 percent, reducing Americans’ purchasing power by an equal amount.

I would prefer to see the government not hold the gold it does. It should be returned to the people from whom it was taken. There is no need for the government to hoard gold or to keep gold in vaults as backing for currency; gold itself should be the currency that circulates.

 

Debater 3:  Gold Fever Is a Symptom of Inflation Fears

By Allan H. Meltzer, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the Allan H. Meltzer University Professor of Political Economy at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University, is the author of “History of the Federal Reserve, Volume I: 1913-1951″ and “Volume II: 1951-1986.”

Gold was money through most of our history, although after 1934 it was restricted to settlements between central banks. Its role in international payment settlements was further restricted in 1968, and it ended in 1971 when President Richard M. Nixon embargoed gold sales and floated the dollar exchange rate. After 1971, several central banks sold some of their gold stocks because the only revenue from holding gold is the speculative return if the gold price rises. After all, gold is no longer money, and holding it earns no interest.

Gold is a commodity with a unique history. It allows individuals to readily transport large monetary values, so it has long been favored by refugees. People who fear inflation or confiscation of wealth buy gold, expecting it will be stable or rise enough to protect the holder. That was true for European refugees in the 1930s, and French and Indian citizens have long been famous for holding gold.

Today, uncertainty about the future financing of large U.S. budget deficits and inflationary Federal Reserve policy are increasing the demand for gold. People in China and other nations with inflationary policies are also stocking up on it. Saudi Arabian sheiks protect part of their wealth by holding gold.

The modern frenzy for gold is a symptom of a fundamental concern: inflation. The world would benefit from an agreement by major central banks in Europe, Japan and the United States to maintain zero inflation. China could join after it removed its exchange controls. That agreement would allow other countries to fix their exchange rates and “import” low inflation. The world would have both more stable prices and more stable exchange rates.

The unrestrained U.S. monetary policy since we abandoned gold has not provided stability.

(End of reprint)

Follow the example of the central banks around the world; add Gold to your investment portfolio. APMEX is one of the most trusted and largest dealers of Gold and precious metals. APMEX maintains one of the world’s largest selections of precious metal products, including the popular Gold American Eagle Coins and the Gold Canadian Maple Leaf Coins.   

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What Does It Mean To Be “Bullish On Gold?”

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Recently, Michael Haynes, CEO of APMEX, appeared for an interview on The Hays Advantage from Bloomberg Radio.  Kathleen Hays, the show’s host, mentioned the fact that the price of Gold had increased to over $1,600 per ounce. She stated that she reviewed presentation Michael’s recent presentation titled “Asset Alchemy in the Uncertain and Volatile 21st Century.” Listen to the entire interview here. Kathleen got the conversation rolling by asking a pointed question:

KATHLEEN HAYS: “Michael, you’re bullish on Gold. Why?”

MICHAEL HAYNES: “Well, actually, it’s not a question of being bullish on Gold. It’s a question of being bullish on asset allocation that would include Gold.”

“Bullish” is a word that often arises in discussions related to investing, but what does it actually mean?  The term “bullish” relates to a type of financial market trend known as a “bull market.”  In a bull market, investors feel confident that the market is rising. They believe the share prices will increase for the foreseeable future. This is in contrast to a “bear” market, which is characterized by a decline in both market prices and investor confidence over a sustained period of time. 

The confidence a bull market inspires tends to lead investors to… well, invest in the hopes of benefiting from potential future price increases.  Bull markets generally exist for a country at a time when economic growth is high and unemployment is low.  Therefore, to be “bullish” about something in the financial world is to be optimistic about it, and to believe that investing in it is a sound decision that will have a positive outcome.

With that in mind, why is Michael Haynes bullish on including Gold as part of asset allocation?  What makes him confident that buying Gold as part of an investment strategy is a smart choice? He explained later in the interview:

MICHAEL HAYNES: “Of course no one can predict the future.  No one knows if cash is better, stocks are better or bonds are better; there’s seemingly a need now for a fourth asset class.  Historically that asset class has included gold, oil and real estate; all of which have different elements to them.  But Gold seems to be the asset that has been performing both in – historically – inflationary periods as well as in periods of economic stress and uncertainty, much as we’ve had for the decade of the 2000s.”

So there you have it.  Michael is bullish on Gold as an asset because the market for Gold has been and will likely continue to be a bull market.

By Craig C. Calvin, APMEX Account Manager

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Weekly Recap 7.1.11

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Happy Independence Day, America!

As U.S. Independence day approaches, the American debt crisis is becoming the main focus of the news. The attention on the European Union’s problem was lessened due to recent developments in Greece making a bailout seem more likely. Greece and the euro zone crisis has not resolved, but the shift in focus probably reflects a sentiment that the American debt crisis is more imminent. 

The week started with the bipartisan meetings on debt ceiling already fractured after republicans walked out on Friday, citing disagreement over tax increases.  On Monday, President Obama met with leaders from both parties individually in an attempt to restart talks.  The deadline to pass an agreement to lift the debt ceiling is August 2, at which time the U.S. would have a bond payment due without the means to pay it.  This would result in default, which most analysts agree, would push the U.S. back into a recession.  Standard & Poor’s, a ratings agency, said they will lower the rating on U.S. debt to “D,” the lowest possible, if an agreement to raise the debt ceiling isn’t reached in time.

Things didn’t look much better for the U.S. on Tuesday.  Republicans and Democrats became further entrenched in their respective camps.  Things were on the upswing for Greece however, as France and Germany pushed for a “Plan B” for Greek debt in an effort to prolong a default and allow themselves as long as possible to prepare for it.  A default still looks inevitable. Also, the IMF got a new chief, Christine Lagarde.  This announcement follows the arrest in New York of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the IMF.

Greece’s parliament passed new austerity measures on Wednesday. This move was demanded by EU members and by the IMF in exchange for another round of bailout aid.  Some experts remain skeptical of the final outcome, and hold the view that a default is still inevitable.

QE2 officially ended on Thursday.  The weekly jobless numbers were released and the report showed an extremely slight improvement in the unemployment situation; the data only showed a decrease of 1,000 unemployed workers.  Also on Thursday, protests sprang up in Egypt.  Thousands of people, mostly youths, took to the streets of Cairo, were frustrated at the slow pace of court cases against top officials of the previous regime.

The Institute for Supply Management released data on Friday showing an increase in manufacturing productions, easing fears of a double dip recession.  The stock market had a strong positive response with major indexes posting impressive three percent gains for the week.  The dollar also strengthened which brought the price of metals down somewhat.

Gold:
Spot Gold prices opened this week at $1,501.40. The high during the week was on Thursday, June 30th  at $1,514.80, while the low for the week occurred on Friday, July 1st at $1,478.30. Gold ended the week down $13.70 at $1,487.70. This week, the most popular Gold bullion products were 2011 Gold American Eagles, 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Gold Bars, and 2011 1 oz. Gold Maple Leafs.

Silver:
Spot Silver prices opened this week at $34.43. Silver reached a high of $35.16 on Thursday, June 30th while this week’s low for Silver occurred on Monday, June 27th at $33.38. Silver ended the week down $0.50 at $33.93. The most popular Silver products on APMEX.com this week were 2011 Silver American Eagles, 2011 Silver Maple Leafs, 1 oz. Silver Buffalo Rounds and 10 oz. APMEX Silver Bars.

Platinum:
Spot Platinum prices opened this week at $1,678.40 and ended the week up $42.10 at $1,720.50. Popular Platinum products this week included, 1 oz. Platinum Bars, 1/10 oz. Platinum American Eagles, and 1 oz. Platinum American Eagles.

Palladium:
Spot Palladium prices opened this week at $734.30 and ended the week up $27.70 at $762.00. Palladium investors preferred 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Palladium Bars and Palladium Canadian Maple Leafs this week at APMEX.com.

 

Featured Product of the Week:    1 Ounce Silver Britannia Coins

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In 1997, the Royal Mint produced one-ounce Silver Britannia coins issued only as proofs with a mintage of 20,000. Created to appeal to both collectors and investors alike, the design of the Silver Britannia coin pays tribute to British nationalism and pride.

The obverse of the 1997 issue of the silver coin features the “Third Portrait” used on British decimal bullion coins dated from 1985 to 1997. In 1998, the obverse design of the Silver Britannia coin changed to depict the “Fourth Portrait,” a more mature likeness of Queen Elizabeth II. The reverse of the Silver Britannia coin illustrates the Standing Britannia, which appears in a horse-drawn chariot and resembles the Roman figure Boudica. The Standing Britannia image was originally engraved by G.W. De Saulles and used on the Gold Britannia coins for most of the issues following 1987. The Royal Mint seems to have settled on a pattern of alternating the classic Standing Britannia image and a special design on the reverse of the Silver bullion coins.

The Silver Britannia coins are also popular for their Silver value. With a face value of two pounds, the Silver bullion coins are .958 fine Silver, as opposed to the standard British sterling of .925 fine Silver. APMEX sells Silver Britannia coins in uncirculated and proof. APMEX makes it easy to buy the Silver Britannia coins of your choice by offering a wide selection of Silver Britannias and competitive Silver prices on all Silver bullion coins.

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Take the APMEX 5 Day Challenge!

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We are a society of “movers” and we are constantly on the go.  We consume gallons of coffee and energy drinks to keep us alert and we eat power bars to keep us going. Who has time to search for news about the economy, the geopolitical scene, and the precious metals market? We want our information to be short, concise and right now.  APMEX realizes the importance of your time, the significance of knowing current events, and how it pertains to your portfolio.

APMEX takes the time to find this news for you. APMEX combines it into a few short bits to keep you informed and prepared for what is happening in the world; saving you from having to put your day on hold to search and sift through an overload of information.  You will find this market information in the APMEX daily commentaries delivered Monday-Friday:  8:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. (CDT.) You have the opportunity to read the one-page articles as they are posted, or you may read all three posts at the close of each business day. By the end of this 5-day business week, you will be more educated about the value of your precious metals portfolio and the events around the world that affect your investment.

Take the APMEX challenge!

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Weekly Recap 6.24.2011

The sovereign debt crisis in the United States and the European Union dominated the news headlines this week; this has been another volatile week in all markets. 

On Monday,  Mohammed El-Erian, the CEO of PIMCO, told an Italian newspaper, “All of this has terrible human consequences and it’s associated with a transfer of liabilities from private creditors to European taxpayers. … [I]f this approach is kept up, more money will be wasted to save private creditors and the risk of a disorderly restructuring of the debt will be greater.”

Fitch, a ratings agency, reduced Greece’s credit rating to CCC; this rating indicates a 50% chance of default within 3-5 years. Fitch also took the opportunity to warn the U.S. that its credit rating would be placed on negative watch if an agreement to raise the debt ceiling is not reached by August 2. Although other agencies have issued warnings, Fitch was the first to talk about an actual U.S. rating downgrade.

On Wednesday, George Papandreou, Greece’s Prime Minister, survived a vote of confidence required for him to remain in office.  Papandreou is in favor of new austerity measures demanded by the IMF and EU in exchange for a new round of bailouts.  The fact that he received the vote of confidence is a sign that a compromise may yet be possible.

A new jobs report was released on Thursday; the results were a down sliding surprise.  The report showed that the number of people on state unemployment benefits rose by 9,000 when it was expected to fall by 1,000.  While either move would have been relatively small, this is another economic indicator that the recovery is not going as fast as desired.  At a press conference on Thursday, Ben Bernanke said, “We don’t have a precise read on why this slower pace of growth is persisting.”  Also, negotiations between top U.S. lawmakers from both parties broke down as Republicans unexpectedly walked out, citing an impasse regarding the tax increases demanded by Democrats.

Michael Haynes, the CEO of APMEX, was invited to speak on CNBC’s Worldwide Exchange on Thursday about the recent activity of central banks. Traditionally, central banks are a source of Gold supply in the retail Gold market; now many central banks purchase and hold Gold. 

Gold:
Spot Gold prices opened this week at $1,539.50. The high during the week was on Wednesday, June 22nd   at $1,559.30, while the low for the week occurred on Friday, June 24th at $1,498.50. Gold ended the week down $36.20 at $1,503.30. This week, the most popular Gold bullion products were 2011 Gold American Eagles, 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Gold Bars, and 2011 1 oz. Gold Maple Leafs.

Silver:
Spot Silver prices opened this week at $35.88. Silver reached a high of $36.77 on Wednesday, June 22nd while this week’s low for Silver occurred on Friday, June 24th at $34.45. Silver ended the week down $1.45 at $34.43. The most popular Silver products on APMEX.com this week were 2011 Silver American Eagles, 2011 Silver Maple Leafs, 1 oz. Silver Buffalo Rounds and 10 oz. APMEX Silver Bars.

Platinum:
Spot Platinum prices opened this week at $1755.00 and ended the week down $67.00 at $1,688.00. Popular Platinum products this week included, 1 oz. Platinum Bars, 1/10 oz. Platinum American Eagles, and 1 oz. Platinum American Eagles.

Palladium:
Spot Palladium prices opened this week at $748.00 and ended the week down $12.60 at $735.40. Palladium investors preferred 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Palladium Bars and Palladium Canadian Maple Leafs this week at APMEX.com.

Featured Bullion Product:  (1 oz) .999 Fine Palladium Bar/ Pamp Suisse (w/Assay Card)

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The 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Palladium Bar is a world-renowned bullion staple.  Palladium is considered to be platinum’s little brother, but it is worthy of its own respect.  The design of this bar is uniquely Pamp Suisse and the included assay card guarantees its authenticity.  Like platinum, palladium is considered a precious metal whose market worth is closely tied to the manufacturing sector.  Palladium is used to make everything from surgical instruments to catalytic converters.  The international demand for palladium has caused the spot price to nearly double in the last twelve months.  As worldwide manufacturing increases, so should the spot price of palladium.

Fun Fact: White gold is a combination of gold and palladium.

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