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Category Archives: Gold

Chart: The Gold-to-Silver Ratio Over 200 Years

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist


Source : Bloomberg

Chart: Global Gold Reserve vs. Global US Treasury in June 2022

Source : Bloomberg

Infographic: The 10 Largest Gold Mines in the World, by Production

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist

Chart: Total Return in US$ of Selected Government Bonds and Gold Since May 2021

Developed economy government bonds have proved anything but safe.

Source : Gavekal

Russia Moving Closer to a Gold Standard – Official

Russian experts are working on a project to create a two-loop monetary and financial system in the country, Secretary of the Security Council Nikolay Patrushev said on Tuesday, in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

He explained that the project involves the provision of the Russian currency with both gold and a range of goods representing a currency value. As a result, the ruble exchange rate would correspond to its real purchasing power parity, he said.

To ensure the sovereignty of any national financial system, it is necessary that its means of payment have intrinsic value and price stability, and is not tied to the dollar, Patrushev said.

Another important condition for Russian economic security is the restructuring of its economy based on modern technologies, he added.

“We are not against a market economy … but … the West allows other countries to be its partner only when it is beneficial for it,” Patrushev stressed, noting that Russia’s development should be based on its internal potential.

On March 25, the Bank of Russia announced a fixed price for buying gold with rubles. It set a price of 5,000 rubles ($59 at the time) for a gram of gold.

The security secretary also stressed that Washington was trying to solve its problems at the expense of the rest of the world, thereby creating a “human-induced global crisis.” And its European allies would be the first to suffer from those actions, Patrushev said.

While the White House is discussing a possible default by Russia, the situation is such that “it’s time for them to declare their own default,” Patrushev said, pointing out that the US’ external debt has exceeded $30 trillion.


Source : RT


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Gold-backed ruble could be a game-changer (INTERVIEW) . . . . .

Edging Towards a Gold Standard

Alasdair Macleod wrote . . . . . . . . .

Commentators are trying to make sense of Russian moves. However, there is a back story which differs from much of the speculation, which this article addresses.

The Russians have not put the rouble on some sort of gold standard. Instead, they have repeated the Nixon/Kissinger strategy which created the petrodollar in 1973 by getting the Saudis to agree to accept only dollars for oil. This time, nations deemed by Russia to be unfriendly will be forced to buy roubles – roughly 2 trillion by the EU alone based on last year’s natural gas and oil imports from Russia — driving up the exchange rate. The rouble has now doubled against the dollar from its low point of RUB 150 to RUB 75 yesterday in just over three weeks. The Russian Central Bank will soon be able to normalise the domestic economy by reducing interest rates and removing exchange controls

The Russians and Chinese will be acutely aware that Western currencies, particularly the yen and euro, are likely to be undermined by recent developments. The financial war, which has always been in the background, is emerging into plain sight and becoming a battlefield between fiat currencies, and it is full on.

The winner by default is almost certainly gold, now the only reliable reserve asset for those not aligned with Russia’s “unfriendlies”. But it is still a long way from backing any currency.

Putin is losing the battle for Ukraine

President Putin is embattled. His army as let him down — it turns out that his generals lack the necessary leadership qualities, the squaddies are suffering from lack of food, fuel, and are suffering from frostbite. It is reported that one brigade commander, Colonel Yuri Medvedev, was deliberately run down by one of his own men in a tank, a measure of the chaos at the front line. And Putin is not the first national leader to have misplaced his confidence in military forces.

Conventional wisdom (from Carl von Clausewitz, no less) suggested Putin might win the battle for Ukraine but would be unable to hold the territory. That requires the willingness of the population to accept defeat, and a lesson the Soviets had learned in Afghanistan, with the same experience repeated by America and the UK. But Putin has not even won the battle and word from the Kremlin is of accepting a face-saving fall-back position, perhaps taking Donetsk and the coast of the Sea of Azov to join it up with Crimea.

There was little doubt that if Putin came under pressure militarily, he would probably step up the commodity and financial war. This he has now done by insisting on payments in roubles. The mistake made in the West was to believe that Russia must sell commodities, and even though sanctions harm the West greatly, the strategy is to put maximum pressure on the Russian economy for a quick resolution. It is obviously flawed because Russia can still trade with China, India, and other significant economies. And thanks to rising commodity prices the Russian economy is not in the bad place the West beleived either.

Besides nations representing 84% of the world’s population standing aside from the Western alliance’s sanctions and with some like India sorely tempted to buy discounted Russian oil, we would profit from paying attention to some very basic factors. Russia can certainly afford to sell oil at significant discounts to market prices, and there are buyers willing to break the American-led embargoes. The non-Western world is no longer automatically on-side with American hegemony; that is a rotting hulk which the Americans are desperately trying to keep afloat. Observing this, the Kremlin seems relaxed and has said that it is willing to accept currencies from its friends, but Western enemies (the “unfriendlies”) would have to pay for oil in roubles or, it has also been suggested, in gold.

On 23 March the Kremlin drew up a list of these unfriendly countries, which includes the 27 EU members, Switzerland, Norway, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea.

Payment in roubles is easy to understand. We can assume that all oil and natural gas long-term supply contracts with the unfriendlies have force majeure clauses, because that is normal practice. In the light of sanctions, the Russians are entitled to claim different payment terms. And it is this that the Russians are relying upon for insisting on payment in roubles.

Germany, for example, would have to buy roubles on the foreign exchanges to pay for her gas. Buying roubles supports the currency, and this was the tactic that created the petrodollar in 1973 when Nixon and Kissinger persuaded the Saudis to take nothing else but dollars for oil. It was that single move which more than anything confirmed the dollar as the world’s international and reserve currency in the aftermath of the temporary suspension of the Bretton Woods Agreement. That’s not quite the objective here; it is to not only underwrite the rouble, but to drive it higher relative to other currencies. The immediate effect has been clear, as the chart from Trading Economics below shows.

Having halved in value against the dollar on 7 March, all the rouble’s fall has been recovered. And that’s even before Germany et al buy roubles on the foreign exchanges to pay for Russian energy.

The gold issue is more complex. The West has banned not only Russian transactions settling in their currencies but also from settling in gold. The assumption is that gold is the only liquid asset Russia has left to trade with. But just as ahead of the end of the cold war Western intelligence completely misread the Soviet economy, it could be making a mistake again. This time, intel seems to be misled by full-on Keynesian macro analysis, suggesting the Russian economy is vulnerable when it is inherently stronger in a currency shoot-out than even the dollar. There is no need for Russia to sell any gold at all.

The Russian economy has a broadly non-interventionist government, a flat rate of income tax of 13%, and a government debt of 20% of GDP. There are flaws in the Russian economy, particularly in the lack of respect for property rights and the pervasive problem of the Russian Mafia. But in many respects, Russia’s economy is like that of the US before 1916, when the highest income tax rate was 15%.

An important difference is that the Russian government gets substantial revenues from energy and commodity exports, taking its income up to over 40% of GDP. While export volumes of energy and other commodities are being hit by sanctions, their prices have risen substantially. But it remains to be seen what form of money or currency for future payments will be used for over $550bn equivalent of exports, while $297bn of imports will be substantially reduced by sanctions, widening Russia’s trade surplus considerably. Euros, yen, dollars, and sterling are ruled out, worthless in the hands of the Central Bank. That leaves Chinese renminbi, Indian rupees, weakening Turkish lira and that’s about it. It’s hardly surprising that Russia is prepared to accept gold. Putin’s view on the subject is shown in Figure 1 of stills taken from a Tik Tok video released last weekend.

Furthermore, Russia’s official reserves are only a small part of the story. Simon Hunt of Simon Hunt Strategic Services, who I have found to be consistently well informed in these matters, is convinced based on his information that Russia’s gold reserves are significantly higher than reported — he thinks 12,000 tonnes is closer to the mark.

The payment choice for those on Russia’s unfriendly list, if we rule out gold, is effectively of only one — buy roubles to pay for Russian energy. By sanctioning the world’s largest energy exporter, the effect on energy prices in dollars is likely to drive them far higher yet. Additionally, market liquidity for roubles is likely to be restricted, and the likelihood of a bear squeeze on any shorts is therefore high. The question is how high?

Last year, the EU imported 155 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia, valued at about $180bn at current volatile prices. Oil exports from Russia to the EU were about 2.3 million barrels per day, worth an additional $105bn for a combined total of $285bn, which at the current exchange rate of RUB 75.5 is RUB 2.15 trillion. EU Gas consumption is likely to fall as spring approaches, but payments in roubles will still drive the exchange rate significantly higher. And attempts to obtain alternative sources of LNG will take time, be insufficient, and serve to drive natural gas prices from other suppliers even higher.

For now, we should dismiss ideas over payments to the Russians in gold. The Russian gold story, initially at least, is a domestic issue. Though it might spill over into international markets.

On 25 March, Russia’s central bank announced it will buy gold from credit institutions at a fixed rate of 5,000 roubles per gramme starting this week and through to 30 June.[i] The press release stated that it will enable “a stable supply of gold and smooth functioning of the gold mining industry.” In other words, it allows banks to continue to lend money to gold mining and related activities, particularly for financing new gold mining developments. Meanwhile, the state will continue to accumulate bullion which, as discussed above, it has no need to spend on imports.

When the RCB’s announcement was made the rouble was considerably weaker and the price offered by the central bank was about 20% below the market price. But that has now changed. Based on last night’s exchange rate of 75.5 roubles to the dollar (30 March) and with gold at $1935, the price offered by the central bank is at a premium of 7.2% to the market. Whether this opens the situation up to arbitrage from overseas bullion markets is an intriguing question. And we can assume that Russian banks will find ways of acquiring and deploying the dollars to do so through their offshore facilities, until, under the cover of a strong rouble, the RCB removes exchange controls.

There is nothing in the RCB’s statement to prevent a Russian bank sourcing gold from, say, Dubai, to sell to the central bank. Guidance notes to which we cannot be privy may address this issue but let us assume this arbitrage will be permitted, because it might be difficult to stop. And if Russia does have undeclared bullion reserves more than those allegedly held by the US Treasury, then given that the real war is essentially financial, it is in Russia’s interest to see the gold price rise in dollars.

Not only would Eurozone banks be scrambling to obtain roubles, but the entire Western banking system, which takes the short side of derivative transactions in gold will find itself in increasing difficulties. Normally, bullion banks rely on central banks and the Bank for International Settlements to backstop the market with physical liquidity through leases and swaps. But the unfortunate message from the West to every central bank not on Russia’s unfriendly list is that London’s or New York’s respect for ownership rights to their nation’s gold cannot be relied upon. Not only will lease and swap liquidity dry up, but it is likely that requests will be made for earmarked gold in these centres to be repatriated.

In short, Russia appears to be initiating a squeeze on gold derivatives in Western capital markets by exploiting diminishing faith in Western institutions and their cavalier treatment of foreign property rights. By forcing the unfriendlies into buying roubles, the RCB will shortly be able to reduce interest rates back to previous policy levels and remove exchange controls. At the same time, the inflation problems faced by the West will be ameliorated by a strong rouble.

It ties in with the politics for Putin’s survival. Together with the economic benefits of an improving exchange rate for the rouble and the relatively minor inconvenience of not being able to buy imports from the West (alternatives from China and India will still be available) Putin can retreat from his disastrous Ukrainian campaign. Senior figures in the Russian army will be disciplined, imprisoned, or disappear accused of incompetence and misleading Putin into thinking his “special operation” would be quickly achieved. Putin will absolve himself of any blame and dissenters can expect even greater clampdowns on protests.

Russia’s moves are likely to have been thought out in advance. The move to support the rouble is evidence it is so, giving the central bank the opportunity to reverse the interest rate hike to 20% to protect the rouble. Foreign exchange controls on Russians can shortly be lifted. Almost certainly the consequences for Western currencies were discussed. The conclusion would surely have been that higher energy and other Russian commodity prices would persist, driving Western price inflation higher and for longer than discounted in financial markets. Western economies face soaring interest rates and a slump. And depending on their central bank’s actions, Japan and the Eurozone with negative interest rates are almost certainly most vulnerable to a financial, currency, and economic crisis.

The impact of Russia’s new policy of only accepting roubles was, perhaps, the inevitable consequence of the West’s policies of self-immolation. From Russia’s failure in Ukraine, Putin appears to have had little option but to go on the offensive and escalate the financial, or commodity-currency war to cover his retreat. We can only speculate about the effect of a strong rouble on the international gold price, but if Russian banks can indeed buy bullion from non-Russian sources to sell to the RCB, it would mark a very aggressive move in the ongoing financial war.

China’s position

China will be learning unpalatable lessens about its ambition to invade Taiwan, and Taiwan will be encouraged mightily by Ukraine’s success at repelling an unwelcome invader. A 100-mile channel is an enormous obstacle for a Chinese invasion that Russia didn’t have to navigate before Ukrainian locals exploited defensive tactics to repel the invader. There can now be little doubt of the outcome if China tried the same tactics against Taiwan. President Xi would be sensible not to make the same mistake as Putin and tone down the anti-Taiwan rhetoric and try the softer approach of friendly relations and economic integration to reunite Chinese interests.

That has been a costless lesson for China, but another consideration is the continuing relationship with Russia. The earlier Chinese description of it made sense: “We are not allies, but we are partners”. What this means is that China would abstain rather than support Russia in the various supranational forums where the world’s leaders gather. But she would continue to trade with Russia as normal, even engaging in currency swaps to facilitate it.

More recently, a small crack has appeared in this relationship, with China concerned that US and EU sanctions might be extended to Chinese entities in joint ventures with Russian businesses linked to sanctioned oligarchs and Putin supporters. The highest profile example has been the suspension of a joint project to build a petrochemical plant in Russia involving Sinopec, because of the involvement of Gennady Timchenko, a close ally of Putin. But according to a report from Nikkei Asia, Sinopec has confirmed it will continue to buy Russian crude oil and gas.

As always with its geopolitics, we can expect China to play its hand with great care. China was prepared for the consequences of US monetary policy in March 2020 when the Fed reduced its funds rate to zero and instituted quantitative easing of $120bn every month. By its actions it judged these moves to be very inflationary, and began stockpiling commodities ahead of dollar price rises, including energy and grains to project its own people. The yuan has risen against the dollar by about 11%, which with moderate credit policies has kept annualised domestic price inflation subdued to about 1% currently, while consumer price inflation in the West is soaring out of control.

China is not therefore in the weak financial position of Russia’s “unfriendlies”; the highly indebted governments whose finances and economies are likely to be destabilised by rising energy prices and interest rates. But it does have a potential economic crisis on its hands in the form of a collapsing property market. In February, its response was to ease the credit restrictions imposed following the initial pandemic recovery in 2021, which had included attempts to deleverage the property sector.

Property aside, we can assume that China will not want to destabilise the West by her own actions. The West is doing that very effectively without China’s assistance. But having demonstrated an understanding of why the West is sliding into an inflation crisis of its own making China will be keen not to make the same mistakes. Her partnership with Russia, as joint leaders in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, is central to detaching herself from what its Maoist economists forecast as the inevitable collapse of imperial capitalism. Having set itself up in the image of that imperialism, it must now become independent from it to avoid the same fate.

Gold’s wider role in China, Russia, and the SCO

Gold has always been central to China’s fallback position. I estimated that before permitting its own people to buy gold in 2002, the state had acquired as much as 20,000 tonnes. Subsequently, through the Shanghai Gold Exchange the Chinese public has taken delivery of a further 20,000 tonnes, mainly through imports from outside China. No gold escapes China, and the Chinese government is likely to have added to its hoard over the last twenty years. The government maintains a monopoly on refining and has stimulated the mining industry to become the largest national producer. Together with its understanding of the West’s inflationary policies the evidence is clear: China is prepared for a world of sound money with gold replacing the dollar’s hegemony, and it now dominates the world’s physical market with that in mind.

These plans are shared with Russia, and the members, dialog partners and associates of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation — almost all of which have been accumulating gold reserves. Mine output from these countries is estimated by the US Geological Survey at 830 tonnes, 27% of the global total.

The move away from pure fiat was confirmed recently by some half-baked plans for the Eurasian Economic Union and China to escape from Western fiat by setting up a new currency for cross-border trade backed partly by commodities, including gold.

The extent of “off balance sheet” bullion is a critical issue, because at some stage they are likely to be declared. In this context, the Russian position is important, because if Simon Hunt, quoted above, is correct Russia could have more gold than the US’s 8,130 tonnes, which it is widely thought to overstate the latter’s true position. Furthermore, Western central banks routinely lease and swap their gold reserves, leading to double counting, which almost certainly reduces their actual position in aggregate. And if fiat currencies continue to decline we could find that the two ringmasters for the SCO have more monetary gold than all the other central banks put together — something like 30,000-40,000 tonnes for Chinese and Russian governments, compared with perhaps less than 20,000 tonnes for Russia’s adversaries (officially ,the unfriendlies own about 24,000 tonnes, but we can assume that at least 5,000 of that is double counted or does not exist due to leasing and swaps).

The endgame for the yen and the euro

Without doubt, the terrible twins in the major fiat currencies are the yen and the euro. They share much in common: negative interest rates, major commercial banks highly leveraged with asset to equity ratios averaging over twenty times, and central bank balance sheets overloaded with bonds which are collapsing in value. They now face rising interest rates spiralling beyond their control, the consequences of the ECB and Bank of Japan being trapped under the zero bound and being in denial over falling purchasing power for their currencies.

Consequently, we are seeing capital flight, which has accelerated dramatically this month for the yen, but in truth follows on from relative weakness for both currencies since the middle of 2021 when global bond yields began rising. Statistically, we can therefore link the collapse of both currencies on the foreign exchanges with rising bond yields. And given that rising interest rates and bond yields are in their early stages, there is considerable currency weakness yet to come.

Japan and its yen

The Bank of Japan has publicly stated it would buy an unlimited amount of 10-year Japanese Government Bonds at a 0.25% yield to contain the bond sell-off. A higher yield would be more than embarrassing for the BOJ, already requiring a recapitalisation, presumably with its heavily indebted government stumping up the money.

As avid Keynesians, the BOJ is following similar policies to that of John Law in 1720’s France. Law issued fresh livres which he used to prop up the Mississippi venture by buying shares in the market. The bubble popped, the venture survived, but the livre was destroyed.

Today, the BOJ is issuing yen to prop up the Japanese government bond market. As the issuer of the currency, the BOJ is by any yardstick bankrupt and in desperate need of new capital. Since it commenced QE in 2000, it has accumulated so much government and corporate debt, and even equities bundled into ETFs, that the falling value of the BOJ’s holdings makes its liabilities significantly greater than its assets, currently to the tune of about ¥4 trillion ($3.3bn).

Ignoring the cynic’s definition of madness, the BOJ is doubling down on its commitment, announcing on Monday further unlimited purchases of 10-year JGBs at a fixed yield of 0.25%. In other words, it is supporting bond prices from falling further, echoing Mario Draghi’s “whatever it takes” and confirming its John Law policy. Last Tuesday’s Summary of Opinions at the Monetary Policy Meeting on March 17 and 18 had this gem:

“Heightened geopolitical risks due to the situation surrounding Ukraine have caused price rises of energy and other items, and this will push down domestic demand while raising the CPI. Under the circumstances, it is necessary to improve labour market conditions and provide stronger support for wage increases, and therefore it is increasingly important that the bank persistently continue with the current monetary easing.”

No, this is not satire. In other words, the BOJ’s deposit rate will remain negative. And the following was added from Government Representatives at the same meeting:

“The budget for fiscal 2022 aims to realise a new form of capitalism through a virtual circle of growth and distribution and the government has been making efforts to swiftly obtain the Diet’s approval.”

A virtuous circle of growth? It seems like intensified intervention. Meanwhile, Japan’s major banks with asset to equity ratios of over twenty times are too highly geared to survive rising interest rates without a bank credit crisis threatening to take them down. It is hardly surprising that international capital is fleeing the yen, realising that it will be sacrificed by the BOJ in the vain hope that it can continue to maintain bond prices far above where they should be.

The euro system and its euro

The euro system and the euro share similar characteristics to the BOJ and the yen: interest rates trapped under the zero bound, Eurozone G-SIBs with asset to equity ratios of over 20 times and market realities forcing interest rates and bond yields higher. Furthermore, Eurozone banks are heavily exposed to Russian and Ukrainian debt due to their geographic proximity.

There are two additional problems for the Eurosystem not faced by the BOJ and the yen. The ECB’s shareholders are the national central banks in the euro system, which in turn have balance sheet liabilities more than their assets. The structure of the euro system means that in recapitalising itself the ECB does not have a government to which it can issue credit and receive equity capital in return, the normal way in which a central bank would refinance its balance sheet by turning credit into equity. Instead, it will have to refinance itself through the national central banks which being insolvent themselves in turn would have to refinance themselves through their governments.

The second problem is a further complication. The euro system’s TARGET2 settlement system reflects enormous imbalances which complicates resolving a funding crisis. For example, on the last figures (end-February), Germany’s Bundesbank was owed €1,150 billion through TARGET2, while Italy owed €568 billion. It would be in the interests of a recapitalisation for the Italian government to want its central bank to write off this amount, while the Bundesbank is already in negative equity without writing off TARGET2 balances. Germany’s politicians might demand the balances owed to the Bundesbank be secured. This problem is not insoluble perhaps, but one can see that political and public wrangling over these imbalances will only serve to draw attention to the fragility of the whole system and undermine public trust in the currency.

With Germany’s CPI now rising at 7.6% and Spain’s at 9.8%, negative deposit rates are wildly inappropriate. When the system breaks it can be expected to be sudden, violent and a shock to those in thrall to the euro system.

Conclusion

For decades, a showdown between an Asian partnership and hegemonic America has been building. We can date this back to 1983, when China began to accumulate physical gold having appointed the Peoples’ Bank for the purpose. That act was the first indication that China felt the need to protect itself from others as it ventured into capitalism. China has navigated itself through increasing American assertion of its hegemony and attempts to destabilise Hong Kong. It has faced obstacles to its lucrative export trade through tariffs. It has been cut off from Western markets for its advanced technology. China has resented having to use the dollar.

After Russia’s ill-advised invasion of Ukraine, it now appears that the invisible war over global financial resources and control is intensifying. The fuse has been lit and events are taking over. The destabilisation of the yen and the euro are now as certain as can be. While the yen is the victim of John Law-like market-rigging policies and likely to go the same way as France’s livre, perhaps the greater danger is for the euro. The contradictions in its set-up, and the destruction of Germany’s sound money principals in favour of the inflationism of the PIGS was always going to be finite. The ECB has got itself into a ridiculous position, and no amount of conjuring and cajoling of financial institutions can resolve the ECB’s own insolvency and that of all its shareholders.

History shows that there are two groups involved in a currency collapse. International holders take fright and sell for other currencies and assets they believe to be more secure. They drive the exchange rate lower. The second group is the public in a nation, those who use the currency for transactions. If they lose confidence in it, the currency can rapidly descend into worthlessness as ordinary people accelerate its disposal for anything tangible in a final crack-up boom.

In the past, an alternative currency was always the sounder one, one backed by and exchangeable for gold coin. That is so long ago that we in the West have mostly forgotten the difference between money, that is gold and silver, and unbacked fiat currencies. The great unknown has been how much abuse of money and credit it would take for the public to relearn the difference. Cryptocurrencies have alerted us, but they are not a widely accepted medium of exchange and don’t have the legal standing of gold and gold substitutes.

War is to be our wake-up call — financial rather than physical in character. Western central banks and their governments have been fiddling the books, telling us that currency debasement is good for us. That debasement has accelerated in recent years. But by upping the anti against Russia with sanctions that end up undermining the purchasing power of all the West’s major currencies, our leaders have called an end to the reign of fiat.


Source : Gold Money

The Failure of Fiat Currencies and the Implications for Gold and Silver

Alasdair Macleod wrote . . . . . . . . .

What is money?

To understand why all fiat currency systems fail, we must start by understanding what money is, and how it differs from other forms of currency and credit. These are long-standing relationships which transcend our times and have their origin in Roman law and the practice of medieval merchants who evolved a lex mercatoria, which extended money’s legal status to instruments that evolved out of money, such as bills of exchange, cheques, and other securities for money. And while as circulating media, historically currencies have been almost indistinguishable from money proper, in the last century issuers of currencies split them off from money so that they have become pure fiat.

At the end of the day, what constitutes money has always been determined by its users as the means of exchanging their production for consumption in an economy based on the division of labour. Money is the bridge between the two, and while over the millennia different media of exchange have come and gone, only metallic money has survived to be trusted. These are principally gold, silver, and copper. Today the term usually refers to gold, which is still in government reserves, as the only asset with no counterparty risk. Silver, which as a monetary asset declined in importance as money after Germany moved to a gold standard following the Franco-Prussian war, remains a monetary metal, though with a gold to silver ratio currently over 70 times, it is not priced as such.

For historical reasons, the world’s monetary system evolved based on English law. Britain, or more accurately England and Wales, still respects Roman, or natural law with respect to money. To this day, gold sovereign coins are legal tender. Strictly speaking, metallic gold and silver are themselves credit, representing yet-to-be-spent production. But uniquely, they are no one’s liability, unlike banknotes and bank deposits. Metallic money therefore has this exceptional status, and that fact alone means that it tends not to circulate, in accordance with Gresham’s Law, so long as lesser forms of credit are available.

Money shares with its currency and credit substitutes a unique position in criminal law. If a thief steals money, he can be apprehended and charged with theft along with any accomplices. But if he passes the money on to another party who receives it in good faith and is not aware that it is stolen, the original owner has no recourse against the innocent receiver, or against anyone else who subsequently comes into possession of the money. It is quite unlike any other form of property, which despite passing into innocent hands, remains the property of the original owner.

In law, cryptocurrencies and the mooted central bank digital currencies are not money, money-substitutes, or currencies. Given that a previous owner of stolen bitcoin sold on to a buyer unaware it was criminally obtained can subsequently claim it, there is no clear title without full provenance. In accordance with property law, the United States has ruled that cryptocurrencies are property, reclaimable as stolen items, differentiating cryptocurrencies from money and currency proper. And we can expect similar rulings in other jurisdictions to exclude cryptocurrencies from the legal status as money, whereas the position of CBDCs in this regard has yet to be clarified. We can therefore nail to the floor any claims that bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency can possibly have the legal status required of money.

Under a proper gold standard, currency in the form of banknotes in public circulation was freely exchangeable for gold coin. So long as they were freely exchangeable, banknotes took on the exchange value of gold, allowing for the credit standing of the issuer. One of the issues Sir Isaac Newton considered as Master of the Royal Mint was to what degree of backing a currency required to retain credibility as a gold substitute. He concluded that that level should be 40%, though Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian economist who was as sound a sound money economist as it was possible to be appeared to be less prescriptive on the subject.

The effect of a working gold standard is to ensure that money of the people’s choice is properly represented in the monetary system. Both currency and credit become bound to its virtues. The general level of prices will fluctuate influenced by changes in the quantity of currency and credit in circulation, but the discipline of the limits of credit and currency creation brings prices back to a norm.

This discipline is disliked by governments who believe that money is the responsibility of a government acting in the interests of the people, and not of the people themselves. This was expressed in Georg Knapp’s State Theory of Money, published in 1905 and became Germany’s justification for paying for armaments by inflationary means ahead of the First World War, and continuing to use currency debasement as the principal means of government finance until the paper mark collapsed in 1923.

Through an evolutionary process, modern governments first eroded then took away from the public for itself the determination of what constitutes money. The removal of all discipline of the gold standard has allowed governments to inflate the quantities of currency and credit as a means of transferring the public wealth to itself. As a broad representation of this dilution, Figure 1 shows the growth of broad dollar currency since the last vestige of a gold standard under the Bretton Woods Agreement was suspended by President Nixon in August 1971.

From that date, currency and bank credit have increased from $685 billion to $21.84 trillion, that is thirty-two times. And this excludes an unknown increase in the quantity of dollars not in the US financial system, commonly referred to as Eurodollars, which perhaps account for several trillion more. Gold priced in fiat dollars has risen from $35 when Bretton Woods was suspended, to $1970 currently. A better way of expressing this debasement of the dollar is to say that priced in gold, the dollar has lost 98.3% of its purchasing power (see Figure 4 later in this article).

While it is a mistake to think of the relationship between the quantity of currency and credit in circulation and the purchasing power of the dollar as linear (as monetarists claim), not only has the rate of debasement accelerated in recent years, but it has become impossible for the destruction of purchasing power to be stopped. That would require governments reneging on mandated welfare commitments and for them to stand back from economic intervention. It would require them to accept that the economy is not the government’s business, but that of those who produce goods and services for the benefit of others. The state’s economic role would have to be minimised.

This is not just a capitalistic plea. It has been confirmed as true countless times through history. Capitalistic nations always do better at creating personal wealth than socialistic ones. This is why the Berlin Wall was demolished by angry crowds, finally driven to do so by the failure of communism relative to capitalism just a stone’s throw away. The relative performance of Hong Kong compared with China when Mao Zedong was starving his masses on some sort of revolutionary whim, also showed how the same ethnicity performed under socialism compared with free markets.

The relationship between fiat currency and its purchasing power

One can see from the increase in the quantity of US dollar M3 currency and credit and the fall in the purchasing power measured against gold that the government’s monetary statistic does not square with the market. Part of the reason is that government statistics do not capture all the credit in an economy (only bank credit issued by licenced banks is recorded), dollars created outside the system such as Eurodollars are additional, and market prices fluctuate.

Monetarists make little or no allowance for these factors, claiming that the purchasing power of a currency is inversely proportional to its quantity. While there is much truth in this statement, it is only suited for a proper gold-backed currency, when one community’s relative valuations between currency and goods are brought into line with the those of its neighbours through arbitrage, neutralising any subjectivity of valuation.

The classical representation of the monetary theory of prices does not apply in conditions whereby faith in an unbacked currency is paramount in deciding its utility. A population which loses faith in its government’s currency can reject it entirely despite changes in its circulating quantity. This is what wipes out all fiat currencies eventually, ensuring that if a currency is to survive it must eventually return to a credible gold exchange standard.

The weakness of a fiat currency was famously demonstrated in Europe in the 1920s when the Austrian crown and German paper mark were destroyed. Following the Second World War, the Japanese military yen suffered the same fate in Hong Kong, and Germany’s mark for a second time in the mid 1940s. More recently, the Zimbabwean dollar and Venezuelan bolivar have sunk to their value as wastepaper — and they are not the only ones.

Ultimately it is the public which always determines the use value of a circulating medium. Figure 2 below, of the oil price measured in goldgrams, dollars, pounds, and euros shows that between 1950 and 1974 a gold standard even in the incomplete form that existed under the Bretton Woods Agreement coincided with price stability.

It took just a few years from the ending of Bretton Woods for the consequences of the loss of a gold anchor to materialise. Until then, oil suppliers, principally Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members, had faith in the dollar and other currencies. It was only when they realised the implications of being paid in pure fiat that they insisted on compensation for currency debasement. That they were free to raise oil prices was the condition upon which the Saudis and the rest of OPEC accepted payment solely in US dollars.

In the post-war years between 1950 and 1970, US broad money grew by 167%, yet the dollar price of oil was unchanged for all that time. Similar price stability was shown in other commodities, clearly demonstrating that the quantity of currency and credit in circulation was not the sole determinant of the dollar’s purchasing power.

The role of bank credit

While the relationship between bank credit and the sum of the quantity of currency and bank reserves varies, the larger quantity by far is the quantity of bank credit. The behaviour of the banking cohort therefore has the largest impact on the overall quantity of credit in the economy.

Under the British gold standard of the nineteenth century, the fluctuations in the willingness of banks to lend resulted in periodic booms and slumps, so it is worthwhile examining this phenomenon, which has become the excuse for state intervention in financial markets and ultimately the abandonment of gold standards entirely.

Banks are dealers in credit, lending at a higher rate of interest than they pay to depositors. They do not deploy their own money, except in a general balance sheet sense. A bank’s own capital is the basis upon which a bank can expand its credit.

The process of credit creation is widely misunderstood but is essentially simple. If a bank agrees to lend money to a borrowing customer, the loan appears as an asset on the bank’s balance sheet. Through the process of double entry bookkeeping, this loan must immediately have a balancing entry, crediting the borrower’s current account. The customer is informed that the loan is agreed, and he can draw down the funds credited to his current account from that moment.

No other bank, nor any other source of funding is involved. With merely two ledger entries the bank’s balance sheet has expanded by the amount of the loan. For a banker, the ability to create bank credit in this way is, so long as the lending is prudent, an extremely profitable business. The amount of credit outstanding can be many multiples of the bank’s own capital. So, if a bank’s ratio of balance sheet assets to equity is eight times, and the gross margin between lending and deposits is 3%, then that becomes a gross return of 24% on the bank’s own equity.

The restriction on a bank’s balance sheet leverage comes from two considerations. There is lending risk itself, which will vary with economic conditions, and depositor risk, which is the depositors’ collective faith in the bank’s financial condition. Depositor risk, which can lead to depositors withdrawing their credit in the bank in favour of currency or a deposit with another bank, can in turn originate from a bank offering an interest rate below that of other banks, or alternatively depositors concerned about the soundness of the bank itself. It is the combination of lending and depositor risk that determines a banker’s view on the maximum level of profits that can be safely earned by dealing in credit.

An expansion in the quantity of credit in an economy stimulates economic activity because businesses are tricked into thinking that the extra money available is due to improved trading conditions. Furthermore, the apparent improvement in trading conditions encourages bankers to increase lending even further. A virtuous cycle of lending and apparent economic improvement gets under way as the banking cohort takes its average balance sheet assets to equity ratio from, say, five to eight times, to perhaps ten or twelve. Competition for credit business then persuades banks to cut their margins to attract new business customers. Customers end up borrowing for borrowing’s sake, initiating investment projects which would not normally be profitable.

Even under a gold standard lending exuberance begins to drive up prices. Businesses find that their costs begin to rise, eating into their profits. Keeping a close eye on lending risk, bankers are acutely aware of deteriorating profit prospects for their borrowers and therefore of an increasing lending risk. They then try to reduce their asset to equity ratios. As a cohort whose members are driven by the same considerations, banks begin to withdraw credit from the economy, reversing the earlier stimulus and the economy enters a slump.

This is a simplistic description of a regular cycle of fluctuating bank credit, which historically varied approximately every ten years or so, but could fluctuate between seven and twelve. Figure 3 illustrates how these fluctuations were reflected in the inflation rate in nineteenth century Britain following the introduction of the sovereign gold coin until just before the First World War.

Besides illustrating the regularity of the consequences of a cycle of bank credit expansion and contraction marked by the inflationary consequences, Figure 3 shows there is no correlation between the rate of price inflation and wholesale borrowing costs. In other words, modern central bank monetary policies which use interest rates to control inflation are misconstrued. The effect was known and named Gibson’s paradox by Keynes. But because there was no explanation for it in Keynesian economics, it has been ignored ever since. Believing that Gibson’s paradox could be ignored is central to central bank policies aimed at taming the cycle of price inflation.

The interests of central banks

Notionally, central banks’ primary interest is to intervene in the economy to promote maximum employment consistent with moderate price inflation, targeted at 2% measured by the consumer price index. It is a policy aimed at stimulating the economy but not overstimulating it. We shall return to the fallacies involved in a moment.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, central bank intervention started with the Bank of England assuming for itself the role of lender of last resort in the interests of ensuring economically destabilising bank crises were prevented. Intervention in the form of buying commercial bank credit stopped there, with no further interest rate manipulation or economic intervention.

The last true slump in America was in 1920-21. As it had always done in the past the government ignored it in the sense that no intervention or economic stimulus were provided, and the recovery was rapid. It was following that slump that the problems started in the form of a new federal banking system led by Benjamin Strong who firmly believed in monetary stimulation. The Roaring Twenties followed on a sea of expanding credit, which led to a stock market boom — a financial bubble. But it was little more than an exaggerated cycle of bank credit expansion, which when it ended collapsed Wall Street with stock prices falling 89% measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Index. Coupled with the boom in agricultural production exaggerated by mechanisation, the depression that followed was particularly hard on the large agricultural sector, undermining agriculture prices worldwide until the Second World War.

It is a fact ignored by inflationists that first President Herbert Hoover, and then Franklin Roosevelt extended the depression to the longest on record by trying to stop it. They supported prices, which meant products went unsold. And at the very beginning, by enacting the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act they collapsed not only domestic demand but all domestic production that relied on imported raw materials and semi-manufactured products.

These disastrous policies were supported by a new breed of economist epitomised by Keynes, who believed that capitalism was flawed and required government intervention. But proto-Keynesian attempts to stimulate the American economy out of the depression continually failed. As late as 1940, eleven years after the Wall Street Crash, US unemployment was still as high as 15%. What the economists in the Keynesian camp ignored was the true cause of the Wall Street crash and the subsequent depression, rooted in the credit inflation which drove the Roaring Twenties. As we saw in Figure 3, it was no more than the turning of the long-established repeating cycle of bank credit, this time fuelled additionally by Benjamin Strong’s inflationary credit expansion as Chairman of the new Fed. The cause of the depression was not private enterprise, but government intervention.

It is still misread by the establishment to this day, with universities pushing Keynesianism to the exclusion of classic economics and common sense. Additionally, the statistics which have become a religion for policymakers and everyone else are corrupted by state interests. Soon after wages and pensions were indexed in 1980, government statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics began working on how to reduce the impact on consumer prices. An independent estimate of US consumer inflation put it at well over 15% recently, when the official rate was 8%.[i]

Particularly egregious is the state’s insistence that a target of 2% inflation for consumer prices stimulates demand, when the transfer of wealth suffered by savers, the low paid and pensioners deprived of their inflation compensation at the hands of the BLS is glossed over. So is the benefit to the government, the banks, and their favoured borrowers from this wealth transfer.

The problem we now face in this fiat money environment is not only that monetary policy has become corrupted by the state’s self-interest, but that no one in charge of it appears to understand money and credit. Technically, they may be very well qualified. But it is now over fifty years since money was suspended from the monetary system. Not only have policymakers ignored indicators such as Gibson’s paradox. Not only do they believe their own statistics. And not only do they think that debasing the currency is a good thing, but we find that monetary policy committees would have us believe that money has nothing to do with rising prices.

All this is facilitated by presenting inflation as rising prices, when in fact it is declining purchasing power. Figure 4 shows how purchasing power of currencies should be read.

Only now, it seems, we are aware that inflation of prices is not transient. Referring to Figure 1, the M3 broad money supply measure has almost tripled since Lehman failed, so there’s plenty of fuel driving a lower purchasing power for the dollar yet. And as discussed above, it is not just quantities of currency and credit we should be watching, but changes in consumer behaviour and whether consumers tend to dispose of currency liquidity in favour of goods.

The indications are that this is likely to happen, accelerated by sanctions against Russia, and the threat that they will bring in a new currency era, undermining the dollar’s global status. Alerted to higher prices in the coming months, there is no doubt that there is an increased level of consumer stockpiling, which put another way is the disposal of personal liquidity before it buys less.

So far, the phases of currency evolution have been marked by the end of the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1971. The start of the petrodollar era in 1973 led to a second phase, the financialisation of the global economy. And finally, from now the return to a commodity standard brought about by sanctions against Russia is driving prices in the Western alliance’s currencies higher, which means their purchasing power is falling anew.

The faux pas over Russia

With respect to the evolution of money and credit, this brings us up to date with current events. Before Russia invaded Ukraine and the Western alliance imposed sanctions on Russia, we were already seeing prices soaring, fuelled by the expansion of currency and credit in recent years. Monetary planners blamed supply chain problems and covid dislocations, both of which they believed would right themselves over time. But the extent of these price rises had already exceeded their expectations, and the sanctions against Russia have made the situation even worse.

While America might feel some comfort that the security of its energy supplies is unaffected, that is not the case for Europe. In recent years Europe has been closing its fossil fuel production and Germany’s zeal to go green has even extended to decommissioning nuclear plants. It seems that going fossil-free is only within national borders, increasing reliance on imported oil, gas, and coal. In Europe’s case, the largest source of these imports by far is Russia.

Russia has responded by the Russian central bank announcing that it is prepared to buy gold from domestic credit institutions, first at a fixed price or 5,000 roubles per gramme, and then when the rouble unexpectedly strengthened at a price to be agreed on a case-by-case basis. The signal is clear: the Russian central bank understands that gold plays an important role in price stability. At the same time, the Kremlin announced that it would only sell oil and gas to unfriendly nations (i.e. those imposing sanctions) in return for payments in roubles.

The latter announcement was targeted primarily at EU nations and amounts to an offer at reasonable prices in roubles, or for them to bid up for supplies in euros or dollars from elsewhere. While the price of oil shot up and has since retreated by a third, natural gas prices are still close to their all-time highs. Despite the northern hemisphere emerging from spring the cost of energy seems set to continue to rise. The effect on the Eurozone economies is little short of catastrophic.

While the rouble has now recovered all the fall following the sanctions announcement, the euro is becoming a disaster. The ECB still has a negative deposit rate and enormous losses on its extensive bond portfolio from rapidly rising yields. The national central banks, which are its shareholders also have losses which in nearly all cases wipes out their equity (balance sheet equity being defined as the difference between a bank’s assets and its liabilities — a difference which should always be positive). Furthermore, these central banks as the NCB’s shareholders make a recapitalisation of the whole euro system a complex event, likely to question faith in the euro system.

As if that was not enough, the large commercial banks are extremely highly leveraged, averaging over 20 times with Credit Agricole about 30 times. The whole system is riddled with bad and doubtful debts, many of which are concealed within the TARGET2 cross-border settlement system. We cannot believe any banking statistics. Unlike the US, Eurozone banks have used the repo markets as a source of zero cost liquidity, driving the market size to over €10 trillion. The sheer size of this market, plus the reliance on bond investment for a significant proportion of commercial bank assets means that an increase in interest rates into positive territory risks destabilising the whole system.

The ECB is sitting on interest rates to stop them rising and stands ready to buy yet more members’ government bonds to stop yields rising even more. But even Germany, which is the most conservative of the member states, faces enormous price pressures, with producer prices of industrial products officially increasing by 25.9% in the year to March, 68% for energy, and 21% for intermediate goods.

There can be no doubt that markets will apply increasing pressure for substantial rises in Eurozone bond yields, made significantly worse by US sanctions policies against Russia. As an importer of commodities and raw materials Japan is similarly afflicted. Both currencies are illustrated in Figure 5.

The yen appears to be in the most immediate danger with its collapse accelerating in recent weeks, but as both the Bank of Japan and the ECB continue to resist rising bond yields, their currencies will suffer even more. The Bank of Japan has been indulging in quantitative easing since 2000 and has accumulated substantial quantities of government and corporate bonds and even equities in ETFs. Already, the BOJ is in negative equity due to falling bond prices. To prevent its balance sheet from deteriorating even further, it has drawn a line in the sand: the yield on the 10-year JGB will not be permitted to rise above 0.25%. With commodity and energy prices soaring, it appears to be only a matter of time before the BOJ is forced to give way, triggering a banking crisis in its highly leveraged commercial banking sector which like the Eurozone has asset to equity ratios exceeding 20 times.

It would appear therefore that the emerging order of events with respect to currency crises is the yen collapses followed in short order by the euro. The shock to the US banking system must be obvious. That the US banks are considerably less geared than their Japanese and euro system counterparts will not save them from global systemic risk contamination.

Furthermore, with its large holdings of US Treasuries and agency debt, current plans to run them off simply exposes the Fed to losses, which will almost certainly require its recapitalisation. The yield on the US 10-year Treasury Bond is soaring and given the consequences of sanctions on global commodity prices, it has much further to go.

The end of the financial regime for currencies

From London’s big bang in the mid-eighties, the major currencies, particularly the US dollar and sterling became increasingly financialised. It occurred at a time when production of consumer goods migrated to Asia, particularly China. The entire focus of bank lending and loan collateral moved towards financial assets and away from production. And as interest rates declined, in general terms these assets improved in value, offering greater security to lenders, and reinforcing the trend.

This is now changing, with interest rates set to rise significantly, bursting a financial bubble which has been inflating for decades. While bond yields have started to rise, there is further for them to go, undermining not just the collateral position, but government finances as well. And further rises in bond yields will turn equity markets into bear markets, potentially rivalling the 1929-1932 performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Index.

That being the case, the collapse already underway in the yen and the euro will begin to undermine the dollar, not on the foreign exchanges, but in terms of its purchasing power. We can be reasonably certain that the Fed’s mandate will give preference to supporting asset prices over stabilising the currency, until it is too late.

China and Russia appear to be deliberately isolating themselves from this fate for their own currencies by increasing the importance of commodities. It was noticeable how China began to aggressively accumulate commodities, including grain stocks, almost immediately after the Fed cut its funds rate to zero and instituted QE at $120 billion per month in March 2020. This sent a signal that the Chinese leadership were and still are fully aware of the inflationary implications of US monetary policy. Today China has stockpiled well over half the world’s maize, rice, wheat and soybean stocks, securing basics foodstuffs for 20% of the world’s population. As a subsequent development, the war in Ukraine has ensured that global grain supplies this year will be short, and sanctions against Russia have effectively cut off her exports from the unfriendly nations. Together with fertiliser shortages for the same reasons, not only will the world’s crop yields fall below last year’s, but grain prices are sure to be bid up against the poorer nations.

Russia has effectively tied the rouble to energy prices by insisting roubles are used for payment, principally by the EU. Russia’s other two large markets are China and India, from which she is accepting yuan and rupees respectively. Putting sales to India to one side, Russia is not only commoditising the rouble, but her largest trading partner not just for energy but for all her other commodity exports is China. And China is following similar monetary policies.

There are good reasons for it. The Western alliance is undermining their own currencies, of that there can be no question. Financial asset values will collapse as interest rates rise. Contrastingly, not only is Russia’s trade surplus increasing, but the central bank has begun to ease interest rates and exchange controls and will continue to liberate her economy against a background of a strong currency. The era of the commodity backed currency is arriving to replace the financialised.

And lastly, we should refer to Figure 2, of the price of oil in goldgrams. The link to commodity prices is gold. It is time to abandon financial assets for their supposed investment returns and take a stake in the new commoditised currencies. Gold is the link. Business of all sorts, not just mining enterprises which accumulate cash surpluses, would be well advised to question whether they should retain deposits in the banks, or alternatively, gain the protection of possessing some gold bullion vaulted independently from the banking system.


Source : Gold Money

Charts: Gold Price in Ruble per Ounce

Source : goldprice.org

Gold-backed Ruble Could be a Game-changer

The Bank of Russia has resumed gold purchases this week, but more importantly, the regulator is doing so at a fixed price of 5,000 rubles ($59) per 1 gram between March 28 and June 30, raising the possibility of Russia returning to the gold standard for the first time in over a century.

If the country takes the next step, as has been proposed this week, to sell its commodities priced in rubles, these combined moves could have huge implications for the ruble, the US dollar, and the global economy.

To get some answers, RT spoke to precious metals analyst Ronan Manly at BullionStar Singapore.

— Why is setting a fixed price for gold in rubles significant?

By offering to buy gold from Russian banks at a fixed price of 5,000 rubles per gram, the Bank of Russia has both linked the ruble to gold and, since gold trades in US dollars, set a floor price for the ruble in terms of the US dollar.

We can see this linkage in action since Friday 25 March when the Bank of Russia made the fixed price announcement. The ruble was trading at around 100 to the US dollar at that time, but has since strengthened and is nearing 80 to the US dollar. Why? Because gold has been trading on international markets at about US$62 per gram which is equivalent to (5,000 / 62) = about 80.5, and markets and arbitrage traders have now taken note, driving the RUB/USD exchange rate higher.

So the ruble now has a floor to the US dollars, in terms of gold. But gold also has a floor, so to speak, because 5,000 rubles per gram is 155,500 rubles per troy ounce of gold, and with a RUB/USD floor of about 80, that’s a gold price of around $1,940. And if the Western paper gold markets of LBMA/COMEX try to drive the US dollar gold price lower, they will have to try to weaken the ruble as well or else the paper manipulations will be out in the open.

Additionally, with the new gold to ruble linkage, if the ruble continues to strengthen (for example due to demand created by obligatory energy payments in rubles), this will also be reflected in a stronger gold price.

— What does it mean for oil?

Russia is the world’s largest natural gas exporter and the world’s third largest oil exporter. We are seeing right now that Putin is demanding that foreign buyers (importers of Russian gas) must pay for this natural gas using rubles. This immediately links the price of natural gas to rubles and (because of the fixed link to gold) to the gold price. So Russian natural gas is now linked via the ruble to gold.

The same can now be done with Russian oil. If Russia begins to demand payment for oil exports with rubles, there will be an immediate indirect peg to gold (via the fixed price ruble – gold connection). Then Russia could begin accepting gold directly in payment for its oil exports. In fact, this can be applied to any commodities, not just oil and natural gas.

— What does that mean for the price of gold?

By playing both sides of the equation, i.e. linking the ruble to gold and then linking energy payments to the ruble, the Bank of Russia and the Kremlin are fundamentally altering the entire working assumptions of the global trade system while accelerating change in the global monetary system. This wall of buyers in search of physical gold to pay for real commodities could certainly torpedo and blow up the paper gold markets of the LBMA and COMEX.

The fixed peg between the ruble and gold puts a floor on the RUB/USD rate but also a quasi-floor on the US dollar gold price. But beyond this, the linking of gold to energy payments is the main event. While increased demand for rubles should continue to strengthen the RUB/USD rate and show up as a higher gold price, due to the fixed ruble – gold linkage, if Russia begins to accept gold directly as a payment for oil, then this would be a new paradigm shift for the gold price as it would link the oil price directly to the gold price.

For example, Russia could start by specifying that it will now accept 1 gram of gold per barrel of oil. It doesn’t have to be 1 gram but would have to be a discounted offer to the current crude benchmark price so as to promote take up, e.g. 1.2 grams per barrel. Buyers would then scramble to buy physical gold to pay for Russian oil exports, which in turn would create huge strains in the paper gold markets of London and New York where the entire ‘gold price’ discovery is based on synthetic and fractionally-backed cash-settled unallocated ‘gold’ and gold price ‘derivatives.

— What does it mean for the ruble?

Linking the ruble to gold via the Bank of Russia’s fixed price has now put a floor under the RUB/USD rate, and thereby stabilized and strengthened the ruble. Demanding that natural gas exports are paid for in rubles (and possibly oil and other commodities down the line) will again act as stabilization and support. If a majority of the international trading system begins accepting these rubles for commodity payments arrangements, this could propel the Russian ruble to becoming a major global currency. At the same time, any move by Russia to accept direct gold for oil payments will cause more international gold to flow into Russian reserves, which would also strengthen the balance sheet of the Bank of Russia and in turn strengthen the ruble.

Talk of a formal gold standard for the ruble might be premature, but a gold-backed ruble must be something the Bank of Russia has considered.

— What does it mean for other currencies?

The global monetary landscape is changing rapidly and central banks around the world are obviously taking note. Western sanctions such as the freezing of the majority of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves while trying to sanction Russian gold have now made it obvious that property rights on FX reserves held abroad may not be respected, and likewise, that foreign central bank gold held in vault locations such as at the Bank of England and the New York Fed, is not beyond confiscation.

India ready to bypass dollar in trade with RussiaREAD MORE: India ready to bypass dollar in trade with Russia
Other non-Western governments and central banks will therefore be taking a keen interest in Russia linking the ruble to gold and linking commodity export payments to the ruble. In other words, if Russia begins to accept payment for oil in gold, then other countries may feel the need to follow suit.

Look at who, apart from the US, are the world’s largest oil and natural gas producers – Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar. Obviously, all of the BRICS countries and Eurasian countries are also following all of this very closely. If the demise of the US dollar is nearing, all of these countries will want their currencies to be beneficiaries of a new multi-lateral monetary order.

— What does this mean for the US dollar?

Since 1971, the global reserve status of the US dollar has been underpinned by oil, and the petrodollar era has only been possible due to both the world’s continued use of US dollars to trade oil and the USA’s ability to prevent any competitor to the US dollar.

But what we are seeing right now looks like the beginning of the end of that 50-year system and the birth of a new gold and commodity backed multi-lateral monetary system. The freezing of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves has been the trigger. The giant commodity strong countries of the world such as China and the oil exporting nations may now feel that now is the time to move to a new more equitable monetary system. It’s not a surprise, they have been discussing it for years.

While it’s still too early to say how the US dollar will be affected, it will come out of this period weaker and less influential than before.

— What are the ramifications?

The Bank of Russia’s move to link the ruble to gold and link commodity payments to the ruble is a paradigm shift that the Western media has not really yet grasped. As the dominos fall, these events could reverberate in different ways. Increased demand for physical gold. Blowups in the paper gold markets. A revalued gold price. A shift away from the US dollar. Increased bilateral trade in commodities among non-Western countries in currencies other than the US dollar.


Source : RT

When Normality Is Exposed As a Ponzi

Alasdair Macleod wrote . . . . . . . . .

Putin’s hubris, yes-men for generals, lack of fighting conviction among the men, poor logistics and strong Ukrainian leadership and determination have combined to turn the Russian invasion of Ukraine into a military quagmire.

Meanwhile, the West has upped the stakes in a financial war. The underlying assumption is that the Russian economy is weak and those of the Western allies are stronger. A few key metrics shows this is incorrect. The underlying resilience of the Russian economy and its financial system is not generally understood, and instead EU sanctions could end up undermining the whole euro system and the euro itself.

This article looks at how errors on the battlefield are likely to bring the financial and economic war between the West and Russia out into the open. By suspending access to them, the West has made the mistake of proving to Russia (and all other national central banks) the ultimate uselessness of currency reserves and the benefits of gold. As well as leading to the likely collapse of the entire euro system, this article explains how this financial war could end up with a de facto gold standard for the rouble and call an end for the entire fiat currency Ponzi scheme.

The destruction of the global fiat Ponzi scheme is a step closer

Being increasingly debased, western currencies serve to conceal deteriorating economic conditions, particularly in the US, EU, UK, and Japan. In China, less so perhaps. But China faces an old-fashioned property crisis which is sure to lead to further currency expansion and therefore, debasement of the renminbi. In this article about the state of the financial war between the US, UK and EU on one side, collectively the West, and Russia on the other, we focus on how the invasion of Ukraine is evolving into open financial warfare.

There is a widespread assumption that the West is playing from financial strength into Russian weakness. This is not so. The Western economic system is in a deepening crisis of its own. Accelerated currency debasement is feeding into rising prices as purchasing powers decline. At the same time, the artificial economic boost from economic and currency interventions is fading. Some say it’s stagflation. But a better description is that the West’s problems stem from monetary inflation and increasing market awareness of the hidden taxation by negative real yields on government bonds. Central banks have enough of a dilemma dealing with the fall-out from their monetary policies without seeing an acceleration of financial hostilities against anyone.

At its root, the Fed, the Bank of England, and the European Central Bank have been running a currency Ponzi scheme by issuing additional currency for their government’s benefit while claiming it is for the benefit of the people. A Ponzi scheme is a fraud that pays existing investors with funds collected from new investors. This is the US SEC’s own definition.[i] It goes on to list some red flags, most of which will be familiar to Bernie Madoff’s victims.

Talking of Bernie, older hands will remember Bernie Cornfeld and his Investors Overseas Service, who like the hedge fund managers of a later generation believed in taking his fees from the profits generated by his funds — the forerunner of two and twenty. His marketing tagline to his salesmen, “Do you sincerely want to be rich?”, was backed up by eye-watering commission rates. But in the end, the costs of maintaining all the promised returns led to Bernie’s mutual fund of mutual funds collapsing in 1970.

Though his IOS was not a Ponzi in the strict sense, Cornfeld exposed the element of human nature which is attracted by all Ponzi schemes, including currency debasement — investment greed. Greed is now deployed by central banks to keep their fiat currency debasement illusion going. Unbacked fiat currency is a Ponzi because its expansion is financed by the transfer of wealth from everyone for the supposed benefit of everyone. Think of the currency Ponzi as conning people into a financial form of perpetual motion and that’s what we now have with the global monetary and financial system.

That’s the thing about Ponzi schemes: deep down, we know that the returns can’t keep on coming, but we still buy into them for fear of missing out. Until, that is, something reverses the flow of funds, collapsing the scheme.

Today, this is the situation with the whole fiat hypothesis. It has been going in its current form since 1971, when President Nixon took the dollar off from the Bretton Woods fig leaf of a gold standard. With a few ups and downs since, now we have all bought into the dollar-based fiat Ponzi. Everyone committed to it not only “sincerely wants to be rich” but believes we can be without having to work for it.

Since the 1980s the currency Ponzi was bankrolled by the expansion of bank credit aimed at consumers and their housing until the Lehman crisis. Since then, it has been financed by central bank QE, credit expansion, and the odd helicopter drop. Today, in the wake of covid lockdowns central banks are scrambling to keep the illusion alive by printing currency even more aggressively while screwing down interest rates and bond yields.

Meanwhile, the political class has become complacent. For them, their central banks will continue to fund the state’s excess spending while maintaining monetary and financial stability. And one can easily imagine that in dealing with matters of state, central banks are no longer consulted; their support is simply assumed.

Now we face an aggressive Russia. In the West it is unwisely assumed that America, the EU, UK, and their allies can just shut Russia down by isolating it from international financing facilities. By denying access to Western currencies at the central bank level, they believe that the Russian economy will be ruined rapidly. The rouble is rubble and prices are rising. ATMs are empty and bank runs are everywhere. Putin will be forced to give in in a matter of days, or a week or two at the outside.

Putin has responded most alarmingly by announcing the mobilisation of his nuclear capability, threatening to liquidate Ukrainians and/or his Western enemies. We can only assume that won’t happen because if it does, including Putin we are all dead anyway. Instead, escalation to world war levels should be more seriously considered as being financial and economic in nature. Last weekend we saw the first financial salvos being fired by the West: sanctions against prominent Russians, withdrawal of SWIFT access for Russian banks, and cutting off Russia’s central bank from access to its currency reserves.

The risk, which is barely understood even by central bankers let alone the politicians, is that Russia has the power to reverse the flows that keep the West’s currency Ponzi alive. In this article, we look at the situation on the ground, estimate how the financial war is likely to evolve, and how the fifty-one-year fiat Ponzi we are complacently accustomed to is likely to finally collapse.

Putin’s mistake

Until a few weeks ago, Putin hardly put a foot wrong with his geopolitical strategy. Like Muhammad Ali in the Rumble in the Jungle against George Foreman in 1974, Putin let America tire itself out fighting in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Ali was then able to knock Foreman out with a flurry of punches in Round 8. Putin presumably thought that Sleepy Joe Biden was similarly vulnerable, allowing his military to take out Ukraine.

Big mistake. He was ignoring General von Clausewitz’s aphorism quoted above, upon which his earlier anti-American strategy was firmly based.

While NATO cannot intervene directly, it has helped Ukraine to use the Porcupine defence — so called because any animal trying to kill a slow-moving porcupine will be deterred by its sharp and painful quills. It is the principal behind guerrilla warfare and why it is successful often against well-equipped and organised forces. In Ukraine’s case, its standing army is supplemented by Molotov-cocktail throwing conscripts taking out tanks and Russian armoured carriers, many of which have reportedly run out of petrol.

In Zelensky, Ukraine has discovered an inspiring leader, rallying every able-bodied man to the national defence. Unlike Putin, he is with them fighting in the streets. Ukraine occupies the moral high ground, while the Russian squaddies are wondering why they are attacking their kith and kin. Antitank weapons, Kalashnikov rifles and a few daring fighter pilots have ensured that the more sophisticated but unmotivated Russian military force failed to take Kharkiv easily. Ukraine’s second largest city is only jogging distance from the Russian border.

Until now, Putin has never lost a war: Chechnya, Georgia, Syria, and Crimea. We are told that he sees himself as a latter-day Peter the Great, the ruthless founder of modern Russia. But military strategy today is different; you cannot dispatch a cavalry regiment into Swedish or Ottoman territory, killing the locals at random and having your men forage off the land. You must be thoroughly organised, and there is nothing more important than supply lines. Putin appears to have been let down by his own hubris, incompetent generals, and poor logistics. But if the revolting Ukrainians don’t want his troops there, Putin will find, as both Leonid Brezhnev and the Americans in Afghanistan found, that an occupation rapidly becomes untenable for the reasons so clearly laid out in the quote from von Clausewitz above.[ii]

The western media understandably points out that a military failure or even just a difficult campaign will undermine Putin’s credibility in Russia. While all reporting is partisan, the failure to take Kharkiv quickly and the way the invasion is going generally is an obvious failure.

There is a heightened risk that Putin will respond more aggressively by other means, if only to save his own skin. Perhaps it was disappointment over the slow military progress and the help being given to the Ukrainians by the West that led to his threat to deploy nuclear weapons. But “other means” are likely to be financial in nature rather than nuclear, perhaps coupled with cyber-attacks on western communications and utilities.

The energy price war

By all accounts, and until the Ukrainian error, Putin had been a thoroughly efficient planner. His geopolitical strategy had been impeccable. Accordingly, we should assume that the West’s sanctions, even those targeted at Russia’s Central Bank, have been anticipated, considered, and countermeasures designed — an assumption confirmed when the Russian Central Bank quickly raised interest rates and rapidly ordered restrictions on foreign currency operations, mandating at least 80% of foreign currency received from overseas trade to be sold for roubles, thereby supporting the Russian currency.

Naturally, a run on customer deposits at the commercial banks has developed with panicking citizens withdrawing cash roubles at ATMs. This has been countered by new restrictions on foreign currency ownership. As always, deposit liquidation exposes bank asset illiquidity, and the higher the ratio of balance sheet assets to equity the less able a bank is to withstand a run on its deposits. Western commentators are now drawing attention to this age-old problem, but in doing so they are ignoring the longstanding role of a central bank which is to always provide liquidity to an embattled banking system.

It appears that SWIFT payments and currency transfers from the Russian Central Bank’s accounts with other central banks will be permitted only for oil and gas payments. The message to Putin is “we are going to do all we can to make your life impossible, but we expect you to continue to supply us with oil and gas”. This only makes sense if the financial sanctions being put in place rapidly bring Russia to its knees, making Putin desperate for the revenue from energy exports.

What is not clear is how Russia can spend the dollars and euros earned from energy exports if payments for imported goods and services are prohibited. If that is really the case, then foreign currency is valueless in Russian hands. The thinking behind these sanctions does not therefore make sense. But in practice, SWIFT does not really matter, because there are alternative means of settlement communications between banks. What matters more is guidance for Western banks from their regulators, forcing them not to accept payments from Russian sources. And that is also bound to threaten oil and gas related transfers. “If in doubt, chuck it out…”

Furthermore, it isn’t clear why Russia needs more dollars and euros anyway. Western leaders and the financial media merely assume that the Russian kleptocracy relies on foreign currencies. This is not true. The Russian economy is reasonably healthy and stable. Income tax is a flat 13%, business regulation is light, public-sector debt is less than 20% of GDP, and the banking system is considerably healthier overall than that of its neighbours. Libertarians in the West can only dream of these conditions. The loss of all oil and gas revenue is about the only thing which would hurt Russia, but that has been exempted in the sanctions. Anyway, depending on the exchange rate, Russia’s break-even oil price is said to be below $45, less than half the current level. Or put another way, Russia can more than halve its total oil exports at current prices and still get by. The margins on natural gas are probably similar.

In any event, Russia still has China as a major market for its energy and commodities. By switching extra supplies to China, China would simply cut back on its imports from the rest of the world. Admittedly, the pipeline network to China cannot handle oil and gas volumes on the European scale, but any revenue shortfall can be made up to a degree by additional sales of other commodities.

Therefore, while obviously painful, the sanctions against Russia are unlikely to undermine its entire economy. But Russia’s response might.

Putin will have calculated that with continuing commodity sales to China and other Asian states within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (which represents roughly half the world’s population) that they can squeeze Europe on energy supplies for as long as it takes. European nations will have found their economies are in a vice-like grip that threatens to get even tighter. Pepe Escobar’s tweet above refers.

But as Escobar suggests, even if that is not enough, being cut off from spending or selling euros for goods and settling through SWIFT, Russia would be reasonable to request payment in gold because there would be no point in accumulating valueless Western fiat currencies. The Central bank of Russia could then exchange some of the gold for roubles to supply the economy’s need for currency as necessary without undermining its purchasing power, adding the balance to its gold reserves. This would be edging towards a de facto gold standard, which could have the merit of stabilising the rouble and putting it beyond the reach of foreign attacks. Russia’s gold strategy and its consequences are discussed more fully below.

Furthermore, market conditions for energy are different from the time of the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Figure 1 shows that the oil price had peaked within three months of the annexation and that the subsequent collapse in energy prices with oil falling 70% in less than two years did enormous damage to the Russian economy.

Today, there must be no doubt that rising energy and commodity prices are driven by the exceptional rate of dollar and other fiat currency debasements since March 2020, making the oil price acutely vulnerable to further supply shocks. Think Sheik Yamani in the 1970s, when oil rose from under $3 per barrel to $28.90 at the end of the decade, and you have an indication of the peril Putin can inflict on the West and why it is a mistake to think that sanctions will repeat the 2014 squeeze on the Russian economy. This time, the squeeze will almost certainly rebound on the West.

The military failures in Ukraine and the hostile response from the West have increased the likelihood of Putin using the energy weapon against the EU. He may have miscalculated the stubbornness of Germany et al, thinking that they would prioritise their economies over political posturing. His use of the energy weapon might have been a Plan B option, but it is now increasingly likely it will be deployed following his military miscalculation.

The Financial War

It is generally right to assume that politicians, like their electorates, do not understand money and finance, which they delegate to central bankers who do not understand economics. If things are going to go wrong, it is likely to be in money and finance first with economic consequences to follow.

Fortunately for Putin, in Elvira Nabiullina he has a sound economist and central banker in charge of Russia’s central bank. She was Putin’s wild-card promotion, having previously been his personal economic adviser. Since her appointment in 2013, she has overhauled the banking system and stabilised both the currency and economy in the wake of the Crimean invasion – she was not panicked by Western attempts to crash the rouble. It was undoubtedly on her advice that Putin announced measures to stabilise the currency following the restrictions announced by the EU, the US and UK earlier this week.

It would be wrong to think of her as a Putin puppet. Her body language at Monday’s meeting with Putin and other financial advisers said it all. She sat at the far end of the long table, said little or nothing, avoiding eye contact. It was obvious that she was holding her own council when surrounded by Putin’s yes-men. Emphasising her qualities and command of the currency and banking system are important for our understanding why the West’s attempts to destabilise the Russian economy are likely to fail.

However, Nabiullina will almost certainly be aware of the acute fragility of the euro system. Italy’s Unicredit has had its Russian exposure of €14bn effectively frozen by Brussels. Société Générale is similarly exposed with its more highly leveraged balance sheet. Germany, Austria, and Italy’s commercial banking sectors are highly exposed as well. Additionally, if Putin proceeds with EU gas and oil restrictions, higher energy prices will increase the Eurozone’s commercial bank risks substantially. Over-leveraged banks will almost certainly require rescuing by the euro system’s central banking network.

The Eurozone’s €10 trillion plus repo market is also an acute risk factor. In-house lawyers and compliance officers at all Eurozone banks will be examining beneficial ownerships of accounts and counterparties to exclude all Russian interests. Three-party repo agents will be asked to submit counterparty details, and where Russian interests are suspected the closing leg of repos and reverse repos might be jeopardised. While financial commentators will assume that regulators will come up with solutions to settlement problems arising from these sanctions, there is a heightened risk from not only the contraction of the euro repo market, but from multiple settlement failures and the knock-on effects vividly demonstrated by the Herstatt Bank failure in 1974 — but on a far wider scale.

Trade finance and other payments are also likely to be missed or refused, which is an additional area of increasing counterparty risk. It will take very careful management by all central banks and regulators to ensure that problems in repo markets and missed settlements don’t lead to a systemic event. The chances of that working must be close to zero.

Whether Nabiullina at the RCB realises that the euro system central banking network’s liabilities already exceeds its assets due to falling bond prices and that it has nowhere to turn to for refinancing is an important consideration. This is a recent condition brought about by rising bond yields. Assuming that she is aware of it, Nabiullina will know that the immediate survival of the euro system and the euro itself will depend on her advice to Putin. Therefore, the survival of the euro system and the euro itself will be in his hands. And if the euro goes, the credibility of other fiat currencies — the dollar, pound, yen, and even the yuan — will probably be undermined subsequently as well, with a run on them from other central banks and their commercial banking networks deciding to reduce their foreign currency exposure.

Putin’s misjudgement in invading Ukrainian territory has turned him from being the ultimate national leader, a strongman and tactician in the image of Peter the Great, into yet another politician fighting for his survival. And with his firm grip on the reins of Russian power he is empowered to do anything to ensure that survival.

So it’s game on for the financial war, and possibly the end of the West’s giant fiat Ponzi scheme. In this context, we must consider the role performed by gold.

Gold could be Russia’s strength

Since the West’s attempt to destabilise the rouble in 2014, Russia has diversified its foreign reserves, reducing its dollar exposure, increased its euro and renminbi exposure, and accumulating gold which now represents 23% of its foreign reserves, slightly more than its dollar holdings. At the Finance Ministry, the National Wealth Fund similarly has about 20% of its assets in gold (estimated to be a further 670 tonnes).

Since 2014, the gold price in dollars has risen over 60%, proving the central bank’s gold accumulation policy to have been more sensible that just switching dollars for other foreign currencies. In euros gold has risen 73% on the same timescale, because of the euro’s relative weakness to the dollar. Not only has diversification out of foreign fiat currencies been the most sensible policy, but now that access to fiat currency reserves has been compromised by foreign governments, the argument for further accumulation of Russia’s gold reserves becomes even more compelling.

Furthermore, Russia’s energy and commodity exports continue to accumulate foreign currencies, which are not really needed in the domestic economy. As pointed out above, it is essentially libertarian, with a 13% flat income tax, light regulation, and government debt at less than 20% of GDP. The only destabilising factor is bank credit, which thanks to Elvira Nabiullina’s firm stewardship at the RCB is a manageable risk. Foreign currency reserves are needed for interventionist policies, which is not Nabiullina’s style. Beyond minor amounts of foreign currency for day-to-day liquidity purposes, there is no need for them in Russia’s fundamentally free market economy.

By cutting off the RCB from its reserves, the West has made the case in Russia for gold reserves in their entirety, with only trivial amounts of foreign fiat for liquidity purposes. And the conditions necessary for tying the rouble’s liquidity to gold is partly there already. Last December, rouble currency M0 stood at $115bn equivalent while its gold reserves are valued at $141bn. Even allowing for a subsequent expansion of liquidity to support commercial banks, we can assume that official gold reserves still cover narrow measures of currency. The message sent by foreign governments and their central banks to the RCB is that to stabilise both the domestic currency and its valuation in foreign exchanges it is better to back the rouble with more gold than with increasing amounts of foreign currencies, which can always be deployed by Russia’s enemies in their attempts to undermine the rouble.

How long it will take for this penny to drop in Moscow is an intriguing question. Given the evidence of recent accumulations of gold reserves and an economy based on libertarian lines, it probably has already. The confirmation will be from all gold exports ceasing, and through friendly agents, such as the Chinese, Russia entering the bullion market to buy what it can. And as Pepe Escobar’s tweet suggests, there is always the option of only supplying energy in return for physical gold, an increasingly compelling argument. And if the Russian state has hidden bullion reserves, we can expect to have them partially or wholly revealed as well.

We can now see how the West’s financial sanctions are likely to backfire, initially destroying the euro system and its currency. The euro’s failure will undoubtedly be blamed on Putin and factors not shared by other central banks. But there is a significant risk that the euro failure will not only destabilise the global economy, but its major currencies as well. Ordinary people will then want to distance themselves from bank deposits and financial assets dependent on the continuation of the fiat Ponzi.

These messages will not be lost on other central banks, which will be re-examining their currency reserves policies. Central bank purchases of gold could increase materially, and leases and swaps where central banks are counterparties come to an end.

That being the case, are we now beginning to see a pathway through to the final destruction of unbacked fiat currencies, the ending of the fiat Ponzi, and a widespread realisation that true money, after all, is only physical gold?


Source : Gold Money