Friday, September 23, 2011

On Scary Corrections

In the wake of gold's scary 12.5% three week correction from its all-time high (and having to stew in it all weekend), I thought I'd share with you some encouraging comments I found on another website:

1. Perspective

Is today *really* a down day for gold?

For $10,609.37 you could have bought the DOW on May 13, 2000. On June 6, 2006 you would have paid $10,706.37 of inflation-riddled dollars for your trouble. Today you'd pay $10,771.48 for that same DOW.

On the other hand, $10,609.37 of gold purchased on May 13, 2000 would have had a dollar value of about $21,660 on June 6, 2006. And today, Sept. 23, 2011, that same gold would have a dollar value of $63,552.

Choose gold. Hold gold. Don't worry. Be happy.

2. Why Gold is falling

I'm annoyed with myself for not factoring it in before but we can easily see the culprit impacting PoG here. Why of course it's Bonds!

How did we miss it? We credited the market with less nuance than it actually has in that it is discounting PaperGold relative to Paper Bonds as a liquid mid-term hold.

Can we still expect a reversal in PoG whilst Bonds drive inexorably higher under the weight of a tanking Stock Market?


3. "Do over!"

That reminds me of the comment I made earlier this week with regard to this pricing consolidation. I remarked that, due to gold's rapid run-up, a lot of people have been left on the sidelines with the sentiment that they have missed the boat.

Well, here's one of those happy circumstances where the boat has made a brief unlooked-for return to the dock. Now the question is, how many of these early boat missers will seize upon this second chance?

Some of them will, but mostly it's the well-seasoned gold-buying professionals who are busy "making hay" while the sun still shines.

Love the mixed metaphors.

4. "FIAT is the wrong play, but the masses don't care. When they see crash... they convert to cash."

More than chalking this behavior up to simple stupidity, I think more than anything this is a sign that that masses are hip deep in debt.

The person that on net is in the black -- that is truly a man of wealth instead of debt -- does not share this same bewildering behavior of preference for digits/paper in times of uncertainty or crisis.

Much of the financial system is a towering network of debt and obligations atop other debt and obligation. The man of wealth will use it to his advantage, sure, but only to a point. He does not build his house on a foundation of shifting sands -- of easily defaultable debt/paper.

5. Picking over the battlefield - better than being in the battle

If you look back at the pre-1987 event you will notice similar results. Because of a RAPID run-up in POG it sold off with everything else. You will notice that POG is still up on the year (look at a 10 year chart).

Contrast this with Argentina a few years ago. There was significant local demand for gold by anybody who could get any.

The bull market has not ended, the uptrend and fundamentals are unchanged. We have witnessed a garden variety correction (in ALL commodities) The speculators have been burned a bit. Practically speaking this is no different than the events of 2002 in gold stocks:

fundamentals + momentum players = avalanche.

Some likely are sitting on coins purchased at $X,XXX and over, well, too bad. On the other hand since we are in the 2nd inning of a 9 inning game there is little to worry about unless you played a leveraged game.

The situation has not changed- only the temporarily overbought and temporarily over-exuberant over-extended players have tripped up (with a little push perhaps).


The comments above are from between 6/13 and 6/16 in 2006, with minor editing on my part to disguise the date as well as to update #1. These comments were written in the wake of a very scary 21% four week correction from the recent high of $725 down to $567. Comments #3 and #4 were by Randy Strauss, aka TownCrier, and comment #2 was Sir Topaz. Here's one more by Randy:

TownCrier (6/13/06; 15:04:40MT - msg#: 145264)

Thanks for your recent series of good posts over the past week. Hiking up the Trail has given you a good view and a clear head to take it all in.

You've made an astute observation that marking ones tangible gold assets to the market price of PAPERgold is not a good idea. During the reign under which wild and woolly derivatives factor prominently in setting the price for the metal, the physical asset will not appear to demonstrate the steady performance that is expected of it day in and day out -- instead, as reflected in its pricing behavior, it will have the same reckless characteristics of its leveraged derivatives along with the panicky mood swings of the paper pushers. Reserve asset holdings in the form of physical gold (instead of derivative alternatives) would therefore only prove itself uniquely meritorious at such fateful time as the credit and derivative markets collapsed into default.

Valued arbitrarily at just $42/oz, it is apparent that the U.S. Fed/Treasury system holds its 8,000 tonnes expressly as an ultimate mitigation against a final calamity in paper. In the meanwhile, the U.S. rides high around the world on the prevailing illusion that dollars, appearing more stable than derivatives, may be reasonably held by everyone else as an alternative to gold, thereby giving Uncle Sam an unduly large audience to support his ongoing debts via the bond market.

ANOTHER system, of the type on which the ECB-euro system was modeled, recognizes that gold need not sit for its whole tenure underutilized until that final fateful paper/derivatives crisis calls it into action. By simply not using the frozen U.S. price, and instead regularly acknowledging the evolving market price of gold through time, they have established a framework by which the gold among their reserve assets can do some of the heavy financial pulling simply by nature of its steady capital appreciation as expressed in terms of the domestic politically-inflated currency.

We currently exist, however, in a world in which the banks of the mark-to-market model have yet to decisively dethrone or discredit the derivatives-based pricing of their key (politically neutral(!!), confer Russian desire) asset as a means to fully implement the stability benefits of their reserve architecture and the accounting thereof.

Getting back around to answering your question, as an outsider it is not for me to say how close the MTM system now has brought itself to the very brink of where cooperation (with the U.S.-dominated system) ends, being the point where the axe shall fall to bridge the gap for progressive movement forward. As we've severally discussed this with FOA, the rational expectation is for the derivatives market to perhaps initially enjoy a burst of naive exuberance to the upside, but then likely fail in a collapse to the downside as players realize that their paper could only ever be merely exposed as being a faulty means to an unobtainable end. The tangible wealth of physical gold was always the stealthy accumulation of the big players who dictate the terms of the game that everyone else eventually plays, several steps behind.

To be sure, the biggest players use (often SIMULTANEOUSLY) the PAPER markets for shorting (no fear, paper NEVER goes "to the moon") while exercising their longs in the PHYSICAL market to take command of the full benefits of actual ownership, and let the devil take the hindmost.

Could the market in gold derivatives see new highs in the cards? Sure -- there's a lot of naive money just waiting in line for its turn to be sheared, the price to be paid for a lack of insight or wisdom while attending the School of Hard Knocks. The definitive answer, however, I believe comes back to the point about where we have now arrived on the financial landscape with respect to international cooperation. If we are at the brink, gold derivatives will continue an officially preordained meltdown even as unfulfilled buyers chase their bids ever higher for metal on a physical market suddenly bereft of supply.

So, are we still in a cooperative environment? If we are, then us little folks will still have time to seek delivery of metal at derivative prices, and our smalltime success may encourage our neighbors to try to make up for lost time in another ill-advised chase for the derivatives. If cooperation has run its full course, the MTM architecture will be unveiled of its full potential as gold is suddenly revalued according to its physical stature, peerless among its papery reserve bedfellows. We would have to make do with what little metal we already have.

If a person woke up tomorrow morning to a news report announcing COMEX August gold futures down to $200, what would he think?

If he woke up the next morning and the contract was trading at only $30, THEN what would he think?

Throwing "good" money toward the purchase of a bad contract has rarely been a prudent means to increase your wealth, as the low price usually reflects the fact that you can't squeeze blood from a turnip -- you can't get gold from an out-of-favor (unsupported) derivative.


Speaking of neighbors, I have a friend who was almost ready to buy his first gold coins at around the $1,750 level. But by the time he got around to it, it was at $1,850 and kissing $1,900 a couple times. He figured he missed the boat and basically gave up on buying gold. So I just sent him this quote from Jim Sinclair's CIGA Eric today: "Anyone not buying here does not believe in the fundamental story. In my opinion, this will be a huge entry point by 2012."

Am I buying here? No. But only because I finished my buying a few years ago. I didn't buy very well by TA standards in 2008, but even my worst purchase then looks like a total steal today. Here's Randy on timing your entry point, written when gold was $510/oz:

TownCrier (12/7/05; 02:42:21MT - msg#: 138878)
On corrections

I had the pleasure earlier this evening having randomly encountered a friend at a coffee shop. Is seems like we cross paths on average about once every one or two months.

Each time, without fail, he picks my brain about the latest doings of the central banks and more especially about the gold market in general. And in fact, in anticipation of this latter line of questioning, I usually cut to the chase and offer the latest gold price as part of my salutation, such as today, "Hello Antonio! FIVE-ONE-OH."

For the past few years he's always been on the cusp of buying gold, but as the price has always been higher than it was previously, he usually expresses a mixed sense first of wonderment and ultimately of agitation (as though he's missed the last boat). Having taken no action during the lower prices, he almost always consoles himself, speaking his thoughts out loud (almost as if seeking my approval), that "I'll definitely buy on the correction".

Sensing that what he really needed was simply a bit more proactive dialogue than I had customarily provided (my personal conversational style is to merely inform and let people make their own decisions), my response to his "correction" comment finally turned the light on.

I suggested that while he was always sidelined waiting for the next "correction" he ought to give some consideration to the following possibility -- that in light of the various things I've previously talked about, the piddly "correction" that he always seems to be waiting for is of no account compared to THE REAL CORRECTION that he needs to tune into -- that being a relentless march to significantly higher prices as gold corrects for 70+ years of undervaluation by the world's banking system.

What a shame it would be for a would-be gold owner to stay sidelined, waiting for some insignificant degree of price-drop that never materialized. I wonder how many other people have consistently tried to save $20 by waiting for a "correction", only to discover that after a series of $5 intraday dips the price overall has moved $50 higher, again and again.

Nike has a good slogan for occasions like this -- "just do it"



I also have a couple interesting tidbits I wanted to share with you:

1. Remember in my last post I criticized Indonesia for including gold in its consumer price inflation index? Well, yesterday Bloomberg reported that they are now talking about removing gold from the CPI:

Gold’s Price Surge Skews Inflation Numbers Across Asia

In Indonesia, gold jewelry was the biggest contributor to a 0.93 percent increase in consumer prices in August from the previous month, accounting for 0.19 percentage point of the gain, government data show.

The issue doesn’t arise in developed nations including Japan, the U.S. and the U.K., or in Asian economies such as Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong where the metal is absent from inflation baskets or jewelry has a limited effect.

In Jakarta, Fauzi Ichsan, an economist at Standard Chartered Plc said that removing gold from Indonesia’s basket of consumer goods, was “theoretically logical.” At the same time, it could lead to speculation that the statisticians were under political pressure, he said. Yunita Rusanti, the head of the consumer-price statistic sub-directorate, declined to comment on whether gold jewelry should be removed from calculations.

2. At the LBMA Precious Metals Conference in Montreal this week, one of the presenters suggested: "The US should make a two-sided gold market at $20,000 per ounce."

It's on the last slide here:

And now, since I'm done buying, it's back to sleep for me. Wake me in October.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Once Upon a Time


The story I am about to relate to you was first told in a lecture hall at the School of Political Sciences in Paris (L'École des Sciences Politiques) on March 17, 1932, from the depths of the Great Depression. It is, perhaps, more relevant today than it was on the day Jacques Rueff delivered it. Rueff began with this:

"The story I am going to relate covers a long period. It is the life story of the gold standard, now afflicted with so grave an ailment that only time will tell if the victim will succumb or be left, at the very least, in a state of virtual paralysis." [1]

He said “only time will tell”… well, some time has passed, and it did "tell".

So what grave ailment was he talking about in 1932? What did time reveal since then? And how has this important story been misread over the years? I will try to answer these questions and to retell Rueff's story the way I think it should be told today. And my hope is that this will, in your mind, bring together many dissonant concepts, as it did in mine, into a grand, unified, long-line view of Freegold.

Jacques Rueff told the story of two different monetary conferences, two "committees of experts" that both met in Genoa, and changed the course of monetary history. The first committee gathered in October, 1445, and the second one began in April, 1922, so Rueff's lecture had ten years on this second conference. The two committees gathered under similar circumstances, to respond to monetary disorder in the aftermath of a protracted war, yet they came to opposite conclusions.

The first committee declared gold the new, sole monetary reserve, unleashing its 500-year reign as the governor of supply and demand that would act as the natural counter-balance to international trade for the next half a millennium. The second committee, under the guise of improving this system, destroyed it, laying the groundwork for the unchecked growth of global imbalance, perpetual malinvestment and the series of periodic monetary crises we have experienced for the last 90 years.

The 1922 Genoa Conference. The British Prime Minister Lloyd George on front row, left.

Prior to 1922, gold was a vibrant, fertile member of the global economic ecosystem — what I like to call the Superorganism that governs naturally, far above the ability of mere mortals. Rueff put it this way:

"Gold… governs all the components of our international transactions with faultless effectiveness… it is a forceful but unobtrusive master, who governs unseen and yet is never disobeyed. Nevertheless, it is too wise to oppose the inclinations of men. It never, for example, prohibits the purchase of foreign securities; taking all their actions into account, it guides the conduct of men in order to prevent the upsetting of the balance it is supposed to maintain. We should also point out that while guiding men's actions it respects their freedom of choice. They are always at liberty to buy according to their preferences, but the monetary mechanism, in its omnipotence, will raise the price of those items whose purchase is contrary to the general interest, until such time as consumers decide of their own free will to stop buying them. The gold standard thus resembles an absolute but enlightened monarch; he does not destroy man's freedom, but employs it for his own ends."

The sustainability (and, indeed, the very survival) of the global economic ecosystem is predicated not on balance in the monetary realm, but on the delicate balance between real production and real consumption. It is the flow of actual physical gold that, at least prior to 1922, moderates and regulates this complex balance because gold, like real production and consumption, exists in the physical realm and is therefore not subject to the politics of easy money. But following the economic destruction of Europe in WWI (1914-1918), the US experienced high inflation accompanied by a dramatic inflow of gold. So in the early 20s, along with raising interest rates and federal budget cuts, the US began a policy of gold "sterilization" to resist the natural price mechanism—inflation—that would have otherwise acted not only as a brake on the inflow of gold all through the 20s, but also as a spur on the struggling European economy:

Federal Reserve Sterilization of Gold Flows

When a country imported gold, its central bank could sterilize the effect of the gold inflow on the monetary base by selling securities on the open market…

Sterilization of gold flows shifted the burden of the adjustment of international prices to other gold standard countries. When a country sterilized gold imports, it precluded the gold flow from increasing the domestic price level and from mitigating the deflationary tendency in the rest of the world. Under the international gold standard, no country had absolute control over its domestic price level in the long run; but a large country could influence whether its price level converged toward the world price level or world prices converged toward the domestic price level…

Traditionally, economists and politicians have criticized the Federal Reserve for not playing by the strict rules of the gold standard during the 1920s.

…Federal Reserve sterilization in the early 1920s probably served the best interests of the United States.

-Leland Crabbe, Washington, D.C., 1988
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System [2]

The price mechanism is the Superorganism's governor in the delicate balance between production and consumption. It is what keeps the economy in a sustainable balance somewhere between starving shortages and ruinous waste. And the flow of unambiguous real gold has always been a key international transmitter of the price mechanism because gold is the physical-monetary proxy for economic goods and services, subject to the same physical limitations as goods and services. Modern currency, on the other hand, even though it flows and trades like a commodity, is subject only to political limitations, not physical ones, and is therefore qualitatively different (an inferior, infertile transmission medium) from the perspective of the Superorganism.

The flow of gold is the flow of real capital, even if today it is obscured by an electronic matrix of imaginary capital (infertile media). Today's debt (the bond market) is imaginary capital in that it cannot perform in real terms; with "real terms" defined as economic goods and services (under current economic conditions) plus gold—and this part is important—at today's prices. It is all nominal debt, but the price of goods and services—as well as the price of gold—is what connects it to reality. And at today's prices of each, bonds are imaginary capital. It is our obsessive compulsion to centrally control the price mechanism that sterilizes the vital signals that would otherwise be transmitted to billions of individual market participants keeping the monetary and physical planes connected.

The outflow of real capital from any zone signals the need to produce more and consume less. The inflow of real capital signals the need to consume more and produce less. The price mechanism transmits this signal to individual actors in the economy. The inflow of real capital will raise prices vis-à-vis real capital, which makes exports more expensive abroad, lowering exports and raising imports. The country with an inflow of real capital will have to start consuming more of its own production or else it will just pile up and rot.

Likewise, the country with an outflow of real capital will have to start producing more than it consumes. Again, this signal is transmitted to individual actors via the price mechanism. With less real capital upon which credit flourishes, credit will contract, general price levels vis-à-vis real capital will drop, the purchasing power of real capital will rise, and real capital will become more expensive in terms of goods and services. Exports will rise because exportable goods will fetch a higher price abroad, imports will slow because local prices have fallen versus the vanishing real capital, and people will have to begin producing more than they consume in order to survive.

The monetary plane, that electronic matrix of imaginary capital, obscures the simplicity of what is actually happening today, and it does so by design. But it's really simple, and hopefully I can help you see through all the noise. Everyone knows that the sovereign debt in Europe is a problem today. But all we hear are complex solutions proposed within the monetary realm. Consolidate this paper, roll over that paper, haircuts, pay cuts, job cuts, interest rate cuts, print, sell, buy, repo, reverse repo, reverse-reverse repo, rescue funds, POMO, SOMA, EFSF, SMP, EMP, ETA, ESPN; it can make your head spin after a while.

The lesson from the monetary changes made in the post-war 20s is that if you want the debtors to ever be able to repay their debts in real terms, you do not sterilize the vital spur and brake function of gold by locking its purchasing power. It is the price mechanism—price changes in goods and services—that transmits the arbitrage signal that causes gold to physically flow to where it has the greatest purchasing power. For a struggling economy to grow and expand to a point at which it can repay its debts, the gold not only needs to flow, but it must be a fertile member of the economic ecosystem so that it can perform its vital function.

I know this is difficult to see, so I want you to try a little thought experiment with me for a moment. I want you to imagine that the complex and confusing monetary plane doesn’t exist. You can still imagine the debt existing, but imagine that the debt is denominated in physical goods and services. So there’s only real goods and services… and gold—gold being the proxy for goods and services that floats in value against those goods and services.

(We can eliminate currency from the equation in our thought experiment because we know that we want a relatively stable currency—not too much inflation, not too much deflation—for the purpose of contracts and debt if we want a vibrant economy.)

Now imagine you have one country with debts denominated in goods and services. Let's call it Greece. Greece owes Germany X goods and services. Meanwhile Germany is still exporting goods and services while Greece is still importing. This leaves Germany with a structural surplus in its Balance of Payments and Greece with a deficit. But gold can reverse this flow in an instant on the BOP at a high enough price. And once it does, it will begin to exert the brake and spur forces on the two countries until the flow of actual goods and services finally corrects and reverses. Once that flow corrects, the gold flow (which is opposite the flow of goods and services) will reverse and subsequently the brake and spur forces will also reverse.

Gold flows in the opposite direction of goods and services. Remember when ANOTHER said, "gold and oil can never flow in the same direction"? Well it's the same thing with other goods and services. Germany and Greece may both be exporting and importing, but Germany is exporting more, which shows up on the BOP as a Trade Surplus and a Capital Account Deficit. At a high enough price, a small amount of gold can (and will) flow in the other direction, from Greece into Germany, and if its value exceeds the (net) trade difference between Germany and Greece, it will turn Germany's Trade Surplus into a Trade Deficit and a Capital Account Surplus.

Now jump back to post-WWI. Europe was the debtor with debts denominated in goods and services owed to America. But Europe's economy was struggling to get back on its feet, making it difficult to pay its debt in actual economic goods and services. So the proxy—gold—flowed from Europe to America in unprecedented amounts. This flow should have acted as an incremental brake on the American economy and a spur on the struggling European economy. But instead, the US sterilized the effects of this gold flow in 1920 and '21 while implementing "intelligent and courageous deflation" (President Harding's words), and then in 1922, the Genoa Conference sterilized gold's natural mechanism globally.

Once sterilized, gold flowed uncontrolled into the US right up until the whole system collapsed and beyond. This would be similar to Greece selling gold at today’s prices to pay off its debt. The gold would quickly be gone and then the economy would collapse. The sterilization of gold may be at least partly responsible for the roaring 20s, the Great Depression, the rise of Hitler and the Second World War.

You can't squeeze blood from a turnip. That's an old saying. It means that you cannot get something from someone that they don't have. In order to pay its debt in real terms, Greece needs to ultimately get back to producing more than it consumes. And as counterintuitive as this may sound, they will first need to run a BOP surplus in order to get there. You do that by exporting more value than you import.

I realize how backward this sounds, but that’s only because we haven’t seen gold function properly in more than 90 years—beyond living memory. And this is why the limited stock of physical gold is far more valuable than the paper gold promises of New York and London would have you believe. This is why Greece will never part with its gold at today's prices. It is far more valuable. Greece ultimately needs to get back to importing gold which is what happens when you produce more than you consume. But you can't get back to that place by spewing your real capital at imaginary capital prices.

At the true value of physical gold set by the Superorganism, Greece will automatically start running a Trade Surplus on its BOP and Germany will automatically run a Deficit with Greece. The high price of gold is the only factor that can achieve this goal. At that point Greece will be paying its debt in real terms and gold will be flowing. This will spur the Greek economy until that flow of gold is reversed and it starts flowing back into Greece. At that point Greece will have a vibrant economy. And then, as the gold flows in, it will start to act as an incremental brake, a natural governor that prevents the overheating of the new Greek economy. This will occur naturally. This is the future in real terms, regardless of all the monetary floundering. And this future cannot be managed by a committee of experts no matter what economic school of thought they practice. This is Freegold.

The elegance of this natural regulator is that, as long as it is free from systemic counterfeits, it functions regardless of the shenanigans of monetary "experts". That's because the Superorganism's price mechanism is a function of the purchasing power and flow of real capital, not the purchasing power and flow of imaginary capital (paper promises). To wrest control away from this "forceful but unobtrusive master" one must render its purchasing power and flow infertile in the global economic ecosystem.

What the 1922 Genoa Conference did was to institutionalize the "sterilization" of gold for the rest of the world through the reserve structure of the international banking system. And this bit of genius was decided by a "committee of experts" from 34 different countries. They did this by introducing paper gold—or paper promises of gold—into the international banking system as reserves equal to the gold itself. This wasn't the first paper gold, but it was the first time that specific paper gold (that from New York and London) was used as an equal reserve upon which credit can be expanded. What is acceptable as international reserves is critical because trade settlement is a function of the reserves. This conference was the birth of the $IMFS.

In 1922, they officially changed the old gold standard into the new "gold exchange standard", which Rueff said was "a conception so peculiarly Anglo-Saxon that there still is no French expression for it." The stated purpose was "the stabilization of the general price level" which you can feel free to read as code for sterilizing the price mechanism and its elegant governance of an extremely delicate and complex balance. This, of course, gave birth to the arrogance of the managed economy and its attendant science, Keynesian Economics (est. 1936) and its step-daughter Monetarism (est.~1956).

With the gold mostly staying put in London and New York, and paper promises of gold flowing as equal base money elsewhere, the monetary base was effectively duplicated. Credit could now expand without ever having to contract, at least not because of the unwanted flow of gold. But of course that's not how it actually works in practice. The "unwanted" flow of gold is not the cause, but the effect of real imbalances (physical, not monetary ones) between international production and consumption. So, obstructing the adjustment mechanism of real gold settlement set the world up for periodic busts, economically destructive punctuations and regular currency devaluations.

To use a modern buzz word, they expanded the 500 year-old international monetary base into a more flexible "basket" that included US dollars, British pound sterling, and gold. As dollars began to accumulate abroad, they would be deposited back in the New York banks in exchange for a book entry reserve on the foreign country's balance sheet. In this way, the unbalanced flow of trade acted only as an occasional spur, and never as a brake. The only brake would now come in the form of destructive crises and abrupt monetary resets.

Here's a comment I wrote back in May, 2010:

The US exorbitant privilege began at the International Monetary Conference of 1922 when for the first time international banks were allowed to accept not only physical gold, but also US dollars (paper gold) as reserves. But all US dollars held by foreign banks were put on deposit back in New York City banks. And there they were counted as local US deposits, the same as if you and I put our gold into the bank, in addition to being counted abroad.

These deposits were used as the basis for credit expansion in both the US and in the foreign countries claiming them as reserves. This process doubled the money supply paid out through the US balance-of-payments deficit for the last 88 years (except that money which France demanded in gold). US deficits never contracted the aggregate purchasing power of the US after 1922, the way deficit settlement is supposed to. It also exported US inflation outward. And it continues today.

The only solution to this problem is the explosive expansion of the gold base (volume x price). Volume can be expanded through mining, but not fast enough to suffice in a crisis. Therefore price will take the brunt of this reset. The price of gold will explode.

1971 was the first step toward Freegold. The final step is today.


Now let's look back at the first monetary committee that deliberated in Genoa from October, 1445 until June, 1447. The Hundred Years' War was already more than a hundred years old at that time, as was the economic and monetary havoc that protracted war brings. By 1420, the French currency, the livre, was under severe market pressure to devalue. The King valued his livres at .78 grams of gold each, relative to the gold mark, the contemporary unit of weight for gold. But the marketplace was trading livres at only about 11% of that official value, or .09 grams of gold. The market had already devalued the livre by 90%.

Jacques Rueff describes the French King's response: In 1421 Charles VII "resorted to a series of measures bearing a remarkable likeness to those which were to be adopted in France five centuries later: the prohibition of exchange transactions by unlicensed dealers and the fixing of a scale of fees for such transactions; a ban on the export of gold and silver specie; the imposition of fines on notaries who stipulated payments in gold and silver marks, that is, in bullion rather than in livres, the intensive exploitation of France's silver mines; and an attempt to achieve a balanced budget by rigorous and methodical management… But all these efforts did not succeed in alleviating the financial distress. A variety of monetary adjustments—which might be termed devaluations—were devised, as usually happens in such troubled times."

Genoa spent 15 years under French domination during the war, but by 1445 it was its own city-state, a maritime republic and an important trading center and port for international commerce. It was also home to the Bank of St. George (1407-1805), one of the oldest chartered banks in the world. In 1444, the Bank was chartered to manage the public debt and make loans to the government, not unlike a modern CB or Treasury. "Niccolò Machiavelli maintained that the Bank's dominion over Genoa made possible the creation of a 'republic more worthy of memory than the Venetian.'" [3]

The Bank of Saint George

So when the fluctuations, weakness and debasement of the local and foreign exchange currencies "gravely unsettled" its marketplace in 1445, the Genoese government convened a "committee of experts" consisting of mint officials and Bank of St. George trustees to figure out a solution to all the monetary turmoil. The committee labored for almost two years, but could not come to an agreement. So instead, it issued a report in which the majority and minority set forth their views.

The minority report, which was rejected, recommended a "basket" monetary standard (although they didn't use the word "basket") consisting of 1/3 gold, 1/3 silver and 1/3 in the depreciating currencies of the countries involved in any transaction. The majority report on the other hand, signed by 15th century "Trail Guide" Benedetto Centurione of the house of Centurione and trustee of the Bank of St. George, recommended the adoption of the gold standard pure and simple.

Benedetto Centurione appears to have been the head of the house of Centurione, one of the wealthiest influential houses of international commerce. It had many foreign branches, each run by one or more of the Centurione brothers. As Rueff told it, "Nicolo and Giovannie were in Majorca, Raffaelo was at Bruges, and Paolo at Lisbon." They later opened branches in Antwerp and in the Indies, "and Christopher Columbus [a Genoese native] was undoubtedly one of their traveling salesmen."

But in 1445, as Rueff tells it, Benedetto "was quite aware of the fact that for half a century a large number of trading countries had adopted the gold standard. One after the other, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Hedjaz, and some parts of the Greek world had adopted… gold." (Reminds me of a more recent Trail Guide who noted a certain Eastern taste for gold.)

In his majority report, Centurione wrote, "The banks will be obliged to pay in [gold] florins, exchange will take place in [gold] florins; in this way gold will not leave the country and, in time, by driving out bad money, it will constitute the wealth of the people." This was the opinion that prevailed in 1447. Soon the banks were required to settle credit imbalances in gold, the new banking system reserve, and to deposit one hundred gold pieces as security for fines in case they broke the rules. And all bank drafts drawn on Genoa abroad had to also be denominated in gold, thus making it the new international bank reserve, in the modern sense of the term.

As Jacques Rueff described it in 1932, this "plain and simple" recommendation would "endow the world with the most marvelous instrument of international co-operation in its history… The system was to function perfectly well until it was shattered—also at Genoa—by the second committee of experts, which in April and May, 1922, contrived to demolish the work of the house of Centurione."

Jacques Rueff

Like Centurione, Rueff also turned out to be a bit of a monetary architect himself in his later years. During the Great Depression, Rueff was a major figure in the management of the French economy. In 1941 he was dismissed from his office as the deputy governor of the Bank of France as a result of the Vichy regime's new anti-semitic laws. After the war he served in political office as the Minister of the State of Monaco, as a judge on the European High Court of Justice, and later as a key economic advisor to French President Charles de Gaulle. The 1958 "Rueff Plan" balanced the French budget and secured the convertibility of the French currency.

Rueff was highly critical of the use of the dollar as a unit of reserve, which he warned would cause a worldwide inflation. He was strongly in favor of European integration, and always remained a firm opponent of Lord Keynes' ideas. In 1947, Rueff critiqued Keynes' magnum opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. After his critique of Keynes, Rueff's main critic became James Tobin, a Keynesian economist who would later serve as an advisor to both the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury where he would help design the American Keynesian economic policy during the Kennedy administration. It is somehow fitting that Rueff's archnemesis, Tobin, would be best remembered for his 1972 suggestion of the "Tobin Tax", a tax on the exchange of foreign currencies in response to Nixon ending Bretton Woods. [4]

The London Gold Pool

Jacques Rueff's advice led Charles de Gaulle to begin withdrawing physical gold from the US Treasury during the later years (1965-1967) of the London Gold Pool, and then to withdraw altogether from the Pool in 1968 which ultimately led to the closing of the US gold window in 1971. Here is de Gaulle speaking in 1965:

And here is a description of the subsequent failure of the London Gold Pool that I wrote for my 2010 post Living in a Powder Keg and Giving Off Sparks:

The London Gold Pool was a covert consortium of Western central banks, a 'gentleman's club' of sorts, that agreed to pool its physical gold resources at predetermined ratios in order to manipulate the London gold market. Their goal was to keep the London price of gold in a tight range between $35.00 and $35.20US.

London had become the world's marketplace for gold. For more than a half century nearly 80% of the world's gold production flowed through London. The "London Gold Fix" daily price fixing began in 1919 and only happened once a day until the London Gold Pool collapsed in 1968 and an "afternoon fix" was added to coincide with opening of the New York markets.

In 1944 the Bretton Woods accord pegged foreign currencies to the US dollar and the dollar to gold at the exchange rate of $35.20 per ounce. At that time gold was not traded inside the US, but in London it continued to trade between $35 and $35.20, rarely moving more than a penny or two in a day.

Through the first decade of the Bretton Woods system there was generally a shortage of US dollars overseas which lent automatic support to the fixed gold peg. But the US was running a large trade deficit with the rest of the world and by the late 1950's there was a glut of dollars on the international market which began draining the US Treasury of its gold.

Then, in one day in October 1960, the London gold price, which would normally have made headlines with only a 2 cent rise, rose from $35 to over $40 per ounce! The Kennedy election was just around the corner and in Europe it was believed that Kennedy would likely increase the US trade deficit and dollar printing.

That October night, in an emergency phone call between the Fed and the Bank of England, it was agreed that England would use its official gold to satiate the markets and bring the price back under control. Then, during Kennedy's first year in office the US Treasury Secretary, the Fed and the BOE organized the London Gold Pool consisting of the above plus Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

The goal of the pool was to hold the price of gold in the range of $35 - $35.20 per ounce so that it would be cheaper for the world to purchase gold through London from non-official sources than to take it out of the US Treasury. At an exchange rate of $35.20, it would cost around $35.40 per ounce to ship it from the US to Europe. So the target range on the London markets acted as a shield against the US official gold which had dwindled substantially over several years.

The way the pool was to work was that the Bank of England would supply physical gold as needed into the public marketplace whenever the price started to rise. The BOE would then be reimbursed its gold from the pool according to each countries agreed percentage. If the price of gold fell below $35 an ounce, the pool would buy gold, increasing the size of the pool and each member's stake accordingly. The stakes and contributions were:

50% - United States of America with $135 million, or 120 metric tons
11% - Germany with $30 million, or 27 metric tons
9% - England with $25 million, or 22 metric tons
9% - Italy with $25 million, or 22 metric tons
9% - France with $25 million, or 22 metric tons
4% - Switzerland with $10 million, or 9 metric tons
4% - Netherlands with $10 million, or 9 metric tons
4% - Belgium with $10 million, or 9 metric tons

And since they, as a group, were doing this in secret, it turned out that they were able to make a substantial profit in the first few years of the pool. Since they were buying low and selling high within a fixed trading range that only they knew was fixed, they reaped substantial profits and even increased their reserves as much as FIVE-FOLD by 1965!

But with the cost of US involvement in Vietnam rising substantially from 1965 through 1968, this trend reversed and the dollar came under extreme pressure. From 1965 through late 1967 the gold pool was expending more and more of its own gold just to keep the price in its range. Seeing this, France (who was one of the insiders and knew of the price fixing operation) began demanding more and more gold from the US Treasury for its dollars.

And as this trend progressed, the world was flooded with more and more dollars that were backed by less and less gold, creating an extremely volatile situation. Public demand for gold was rising, the war was escalating, the pound was devalued, France backed out of the gold pool, and in one day, Friday March 8, 1968, 100 tonnes of gold were sold in London, twenty times the normal 5 tonne day.

The following Sunday the US Fed chairman announced that the US would defend the $35 per ounce gold price "down to the last ingot"! Immediately, the US airlifted several planeloads of its gold to London to meet demand. On Wednesday of that week London sold 175 tonnes of gold. Then on Thursday, public demand reached 225 tonnes! That night they declared Friday a "bank holiday" and closed the gold market for two weeks, "upon the request of the United States". (So much for "the last ingot", eh?)

That was the end of the London Gold Pool. The public price of gold quickly rose to $44 an ounce and a new "two tiered" gold price was unveiled; one price for central banks, and a different price for the rest of us. Even today official US gold is still marked to only $42.22 per ounce, $2 LESS than the market price in 1968!

The Architects

In my opinion, there are two things we learned from ANOTHER via his mouthpiece FOA that outweighed all the other great insights they shared. Those two things are:

1. The true purpose behind the euro and its architecture, and
2. The effect the approaching euro launch would have on gold.

Following ANOTHER's revelations, Jacques Rueff was the first name I put on my own personal list of early ideological euro architects a couple years ago. The ECB itself pegs the beginning of "The Road to the Single Currency, The Euro" at 1962 with the "Marjolin-Memorandum". [5][6]

The Marjolin-Memorandum was the European Commission's first proposal for an economic and monetary union. Robert Marjolin (1911-1986) was a French economist and politician involved in the formation of the European Economic Community (EEC). He was 15 years Jacques Rueff's (1896-1978) junior and, like Rueff, he was an economic advisor to Charles de Gaulle. I mention this only to further the connection between the modern euro and Charles de Gaulle of the 1960s who complained publicly about the exorbitant privilege afforded the US by the use of dollars as international CB reserves, demanded physical gold from the US Treasury, and pulled out of the London Gold Pool which led to the end of Bretton Woods three years later.

What we learned from ANOTHER thirty years later was:

1. The purpose of the euro was to provide an international transactional alternative to the dollar.
2. The consequence of the launch of the euro would be that gold would undergo "the most visible transformation since it was first used as money."

Quote - Monday, August 6, 2001 - GOLD @ $267.20 - FOA: "The result will be a massive dollar price rise in gold that performs over several years."

Tuesday, January 1, 2002 - Launch of euro notes and coins
Friday, February 8, 2002 - GOLD ABOVE $300
Monday, December 1, 2003 - GOLD ABOVE $400
Thursday December 1, 2005 - GOLD ABOVE $500
Monday, April 17, 2006 - GOLD ABOVE $600
Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - GOLD ABOVE $700
Friday, November 2, 2007 - GOLD ABOVE $800
Monday, January 14, 2008 - GOLD ABOVE $900
Monday, March 17, 2008 - GOLD ABOVE $1000
Monday, November 9, 2009 - GOLD ABOVE $1100
Tuesday, December 1, 2009 - GOLD ABOVE $1200
Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - GOLD ABOVE $1300
Wednesday, November 9, 2010 - GOLD ABOVE $1400
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - GOLD ABOVE $1500
Monday, July 18, 2011 - GOLD ABOVE $1600
Monday, August 8, 2011 - GOLD ABOVE $1700
Thursday, August 18, 2011 - GOLD ABOVE $1800

What I can tell you with full confidence is that this is only the very beginning of gold's functional transformation.

Here are a few more quotes from A/FOA:

It's important to understand that most of the world wanted to at least see another currency that could share some of the dollar's function. It didn't have to replace it. To this end, most every country gave some philosophical and political support in its creation.


Within this change, gold would undergo one of the most visible transformations since it was first used as money.


We are, today, at the very conclusion of a fiat architecture that is straining to cope with our changing world. Neither the American currency dollar, its world reserve monetary system or the native US structural economy it all currently represents will, in the near future, look anything as it presently does. Trained from birth, as all Western thinkers are, to read everything economic in dollar system terms; we, too, are all straining to understand the seemingly unexplainable dynamics that surround us today.

Western governments, the public and several schools of economic thought are attempting to define and explain what extent these changes will have within our financial and economic world.


Asking more; what if the architects of a competing currency system and the major players that helped guide its internal construction, all took a hand in promoting the dollar's extended life, its overvaluation and its use; so as to buy time for this great transition in our money world?


The actual debt machine that built much of America's lifestyle is now going into reverse as it destroys its own currency; one built upon a stable debt system with locked down gold prices.


To compete in the new architecture of a Euro System currency, unrestrained trading of gold will advance its dollar and Euro price significantly.


This not only has "everything to do with a gold bull market", it has everything to do with a changing world financial architecture. And I have to admit: if you hated our last one, you will no doubt hate this new one, too. However, everyone that is positioned in physical gold will carry this storm in fantastic shape. This is because the ECB has no intentions of backing their currency with gold and every intention of using gold as a "free trading" financial reserve. None of the other metals will play a part in this.


Here's something interesting. In Indonesia, CPI includes gold! This is very $IMFesque.

Inflation up, exports down
Esther Samboh, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 09/06/2011


An uncertain global economy has put pressure on Indonesia’s economy, as the yearly inflation rate grew in August for the first time since January over surging gold prices, while export growth slowed due to sliding global demand.

Core inflation — the primary measurement of the country’s inflation rate, which includes gold but excludes volatile food and government-controlled prices — accelerated faster than headline inflation to 5.15 percent, well above Bank Indonesia’s 5 percent threshold.

“The increase in core inflation is not across the board. The impact of the gold prices increase is small, as gold is not a primary or secondary need for the people,” Eric Sugandi, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank Indonesia, told The Jakarta Post over the phone.

“In August, there was no help from lower import prices to offset the surge in gold prices,” Destry told the Post in a telephone interview.

Rusman announced that the surplus in the nation’s trade balance fell to $1.36 billion in July, its lowest level so far this year, halving June’s surplus of more than $3 billion. “The trade surplus narrows as exports slide and imports surge,” he added.

Exports slowed 5.23 percent in July as compared to June, reaching $17.43 billion, while imports grew 6.57 percent to $16.06 billion.

BI governor Darmin Nasution said increasing fuel imports and a slight slowdown in global demand may continue to pressure the nation’s current account — which includes trade balance — to book deficits starting in the fourth quarter of this year. “The fluctuation in the current account will be greater.”

“If the current account books a deficit, we will need capital inflows” to maintain a surplus in the nation’s balance of payment to build up the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves, he added.

This is a very interesting news article because it not only demonstrates how 90 years of the $IMFS has distorted foreign government benchmarks at the highest levels, but also how ass-backward this view actually is. Indonesia's Consumer Price Index should include food and exclude gold, not the other way around! In a fiat regime, you want your fiat to be relatively stable against the goods that make the economy healthy. But in this case, what they are registering as inflation (rising price of gold) is actually deflation in real terms because the purchasing power of gold in Indonesia is rising against things like food.

In Freegold, this rising purchasing power of gold against food would have the effect of an inflow of physical gold and a spur on the economy as exports rise due to being cheaper in gold elsewhere. But here's the catch: the signals are all messed up by the $IMFS! Indonesia is already running a trade surplus. And gold is rising versus food everywhere. It doesn't matter if you're producing or consuming more in your country today, gold is still rising. In this way we can know for certain that today's price of gold is not really the true value of gold (gold priced in goods).

And that's because the price of gold today still does not reflect the physical flow of gold that would normally be a function of arbitrage, with speculators transporting gold to where its purchasing power is highest. The flow of gold today is still sterilized by the paper gold trade within the LBMA bullion banking system that, by a recent LBMA survey, was around 250 times larger than the flow of new gold from the mines. That's a total turnover in the LBMA (sales plus purchases) of 5,400 tonnes every single day. That's the equivalent of every ounce of gold that has ever been mined in all of history changing hands in just the first three months of 2011. That's what the LBMA members, themselves, voluntarily reported. And that's a lot of paper gold that is still sterilizing the economically beneficial price mechanism that physical gold would otherwise be transmitting.

Yet things are changing, even today. That's what the rising price of gold since 2002 tells me. This is about much more than just a rising price. It's not just about a gold or even a commodity bull market. As FOA said, "it has everything to do with a changing world financial architecture." Gold's function in the monetary system is changing. And as FOA also said, "None of the other metals will play a part in this."

Gold will return to its pre-1922 function, but that does not mean we will return to a pre-1922 gold standard. This post is not about the merits of the gold standard. It is not about praising the hard money camp’s decision in 1445 over the easy money camp’s decision in 1922. It is about the choice of the Superorganism over the management of men. The pre-22 gold standard, although it allowed gold to function, still carried the same flaw I point to so often; that using the same medium for exchange and savings leads to regular recurring conflicts between the two camps.

This is an important distinction to understand. Gold's true function is relative to the real, physical balance of trade, not man's flawed, political-overvaluation of debt and other monetary schemes. In 1971, the entire planet switched to using a pure token money as its medium of exchange. These symbolic tokens do fail miserably and regularly as a store of value, but they work remarkably well as a medium of exchange. They are not going away.

The whole ECB/Euro architecture was built to turn Genoa 1922 on its head, to reverse the damage done and to restore the function of gold which Jacques Rueff knew all too well. The ECB has one plain and simple mandate, to act with regard to a target CPI that is statistically harmonized across different economies dealing with different economic factors. In other words, the job of the ECB is to maintain stability in the purchasing power of a common currency against the general price level in many different countries.

This simple architecture is designed to work best in Freegold, where the price and flow of physical gold will automatically regulate and relieve the pressure of economic differences between member states. If the ECB had been designed to assist the European economies, it would likely have been given the second mandate, same as the US Fed. The Fed has two mandated targets: CPI and full employment. These dual mandates are like fair weather friends, because when the heat is on—like it is today—they actually become dueling mandates. The ECB, on the other hand, is not mandated to assist the economy like the Fed is. In fact, FOA wrote back in 2000:

"Basically, this is the direction the Euro group is taking us. This concept was born with little regard for the economic health of Europe. In the future, any countries money or economy can totally fail and the world currency operation will continue. What is being built is a new currency system, built on a world market price for gold."

Like I said earlier, the monetary plane, which includes all that nominal sovereign debt in Europe, is only connected to the physical plane by two things, the price of goods and services (CPI or the general price level, on which the ECB has a mandate) and the price of gold (which the ECB happily floats). I think we can all agree that the aggregate debt is doomed at today's prices. It is fictional, imaginary capital. But those of you predicting the imminent collapse of the euro as a medium of exchange need to explain how nominal euro debt is more likely to break its connection with goods and services than its imaginary connection to gold at today's prices.

I'll give you a few hints. Unlike the US, where the expenses of the same government that calculates CPI rise along with CPI, and where the CB has conflicting mandates that benefit from a statistically-lowered CPI, the ECB has not only met its mandate, but done so credibly. And unlike Indonesia, the ECB does not count gold in its CPI (HICP). Instead, the ECB floats its gold publicly and without worry. So while you're wondering in which of the two choices the disconnect will happen in Europe, consider this: Over the last decade, the general price level has performed more or less as expected while the gold price in euro broke off in 2005 and rose 325% in six years:

January 1, 2002 – GOLD @ €310.50
Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - GOLD ABOVE €400
Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - GOLD ABOVE €500
Thursday, January 10, 2008 - GOLD ABOVE €600
Friday, January 30, 2009 - GOLD ABOVE €700
Wednesday, December 2, 2009 - GOLD ABOVE €800
Tuesday, May 4, 2010 - GOLD ABOVE €900
Monday, May 17, 2010 - GOLD ABOVE €1000
Monday, July 11, 2011 - GOLD ABOVE €1100
Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - GOLD ABOVE €1200
Monday, August 22, 2011 - GOLD ABOVE €1300

And those of you that incessantly argue that gold is just one of many commodities—an asset like any other that, when push comes to shove, will ultimately be liquidated in favor of symbolic token currency units—need to explain how the monetary plane, insolvent at today's low prices, will maintain any grip on reality at even lower prices. The fact is it can't. And that's why you can only maintain your arguments with fantastic stories of modern day all-powerful overlords enslaving the serfs to their graves. But unfortunately, that's not how a diverse global economic ecosystem actually works.

Our money is credit. “The people’s” money has always been credit. Credit expands and contracts based on the availability of actual money, the monetary base. 1922 was the first time they included a form of credit as the base itself. A Pandora’s box if ever there was one!

But don't assume there is coercion involved when I say credit is our money. It is the best possible money for a vibrant economy. It is how the pure concept of money emerged in the very beginning. When gold first became money, it was as the mental unit of account. I'll give you five ounces of gold worth of cattle and you'll owe me five ounces worth of milk and other goods and services. When we participate in a vibrant economy, we deal in credit denominated in money. When we withdraw from a mismanaged economy, we withdraw into the monetary base, we hoard the reserves. Holding credit is our vote for vibrancy. Hoarding reserves is our vote against the current economy.

Gold is in the process of changing functions in the global economy. And in this transition, "the most visible transformation since it was first used as money," it will plateau at a new, mind-blowing level before it resumes its proper function. This is happening. It must happen, because bullion bank paper promises cannot function like gold. So be careful what kind of gold you're holding (physical is what you want), or you might just miss out on the revaluation of the millennium. Gaining a deeper understanding of what is happening, as you can here, here and here, should help those of you that worry about buying gold now because a few analysts, who have no idea what they're talking about, keep saying this is the top. This is the "top range" prediction I made two years ago:

Here's the main thing, gold will work the same way as a reserve asset in Freegold as it did before 1922, even without going back to being the sole monetary base. Gold is superior to even the entire monetary plane in this regard. It is the sole monetary member of the physical realm. Whether it is part of the transactional currency system or not doesn’t matter to its balance-governing role. It can fulfill that role even in Freegold. That’s what the architects figured out! That was their Grand Induction. That’s how the euro architects are comparable to the Genoa Conference of 1445. And that's how Jacques Rueff is comparable to Benedetto Centurione. Probably far superior!


[1] The Age of Inflation, Chapter 2, Jacques Rueff
[5] p. 51
[6] pp. 15 - 17

"It's worked so far, but we're not out yet." -Leonard "Bones" McCoy