Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

An old Halloween standard where I come from… I was at this particular show, somewhere near the stage. You might even see me:

we close our eyes
we close our eyes and dream
and the world has turned around again
when everybody is running in the big race
and having a good time
who am I to cast a shadow
who am I?
I looked death in the face last night
I saw him in a mirror and he simply smiled
he told me not to worry
he told me just to take my time

we close our eyes and the world has turned around again
we close our eyes and dream
and another year has come and gone
we close our eyes and the world has turned around again
we close our eyes and dream

and if you come to me
and if you touch my hand
I might just slip away
I might just disappear
who am I?
and if you think I'm worth it
and if you think it's not too late
we might start falling
if we dont try too hard
we might start falling in love

we close our eyes and the world has turned around again
we close our eyes and dream
and another year has come and gone
we close our eyes and the world has turned around again
we close our eyes and dream

we're on the healing path
we're on a roller coaster ride that could never turn back
and if you love me
and if you really try to make the seconds count
then we can close our eyes
we close our eyes
and the world has turned around again
we close our eyes
and another year has come and gone

we close our eyes and the world has turned around again
we close our eyes and dream
we close our eyes
and the world has turned around again

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Flow Addendum

The following is the essential companion to It's the Flow, Stupid, filling in gaps and answering questions. Whether or not you've read this masterpiece in the past, it is worth another look. If you are like me, you will find something new that you didn't see before.


Part 1 --- Stormclouds Gather...

The estimable economist Milton Friedman stated his forgettable opinion in 1974 that OPEC would collapse and oil would never get up to $10 per barrel. In all fairness to Professor Friedman, we must recognize his position as coming from a staunch monetarist, emphasizing money supply as the "true religion" for the Federal Reserve to keep the US Dollar as good as Gold. At times, he half-seriously argued for the abolition of the Federal Reserve in light of the simple monetary policy guidelines that could serve in its stead, with the economy returning to a state of self-regulation. (In the past sound-money days, economic hardships were far from unnatural, and they were not necessarily attributable to acts of government. However, modern attempts to centrally manage the economy ensures that any blame for systemic difficulties today may be clearly laid at government's feet.)

Milton's mistake was two-fold. First was his knowledge that Arabian oil could be produced for one dime of real money, and that inevitable competition among OPEC members would surely keep the price close to cost of production. Second, and most importantly, Milton failed to account for the possibility that the government would abandon such reasonable monetary management to keep the dollar nearly as good as Gold. This fact was NOT lost, however, on the oil producing countries. Ask yourself, what would YOU do if your business or trading partners suddenly started offering you payment with Monopoly money instead of "real" money? Would you shun real money as though it were the plague, and embrace Monopoly money as the greatest thing since sliced bread? If you would, then I have got a job for you!! Bring your shovel and some work-clothes, you have been hired for life...

Upon the 1971 declaration by the United States that redemption of dollars for Gold would be terminated, the entities in receipt of dollars for balance of trade settlements had no difficulty recognizing this as an outright default on payment contracts. The scramble was on to make sense of this new payment system in which the dollar was no longer a THING of value (a small amount of Gold), but was now reduced to a CONCEPT of value; an undefined unit with which the world would denominate the amount of value in contracts for goods and services. The problem ever since has been in coming to terms with the meaning of value for this shifting and undefined unit, and its vulnerability for mismanagement and abuse.

Jelle Zijlstra, who became head of the Bank for International Settlements, said while with the Bank of the Netherlands in regard to the 1971 severing of Gold from the dollar, "When we left the pound, we could go to the dollar. But where could we go from the dollar? To the moon?"

As I continue this tale, I hope it becomes clear that not only have we gone to the moon, but that Gold is going there also.

Part 2 --- A Transition: Things Are what they Are...

Do you see the world as it is? Or, do you see the world as you are? A tough obstacle, to be sure, as our experiences weigh heavily on our perceptions, and many people have no practical earthly experience with real money. There is hope..."the Truth is out there!" as a popular show is quick to proclaim. Albert Einstein puts an interesting slant on this theme: "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind."

So with a ready admission our minds are frail and feeble, let's prepare to tackle something so ponderous it must hopelessly remain an abstraction to us mere mortals. I refer to the U.S. national debt, expressed in dollars, that stands at 5.6 trillion. Wow! What does that really mean? To put it in some perspective, we will revisit the 1970's, and try to get our arms (and feeble minds) around some much smaller numbers, and yet numbers that themselves are large enough to be abstractions. Let's examine the incredible and overwhelming wealth and economics of oil.

Imagine having claim to a sandy and barren land that reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit in Summer, making your living through the ages on goats, dates and Pilgrims to Mecca. Not a posh existence when compared to America in the Roaring 1920's, but the passage of time reveals the fortunate few that were in the right place at the right time. When the Standard Oil Company of California was granted an exploration concession for Saudi Arabia in 1928, the 35,000 Gold sovereigns paid by Socal were reportedly counted by Sheik Abdullah Sulaiman himself. Wispy shades of things to come! This can be thought of similarly to how you might view a collection of skinny stock investors who found themselves heavily invested in penny internet stocks when the technology market exploded in the 1990, making them all millionaires. Except this: Oil is much, much bigger! We will soon examine what it means to be in the right place at the right time.

I will talk about pricing and balance of trade in the next part...stay tuned for the biggest transfer of wealth the world has ever seen. The key-currency gets debased in 1971, and Gresham's Law rules the land.

Part 3 --- It's Only (a mountain of) "Money"...

Having purchased this Saudi Arabian concession, in subsequent drilling Socal's Damman Number 7 struck oil in 1937 (I believe old Number Seven is still flowing.) Socal partnered with Exxon, Mobil, and Texaco to form the Arabian-American Oil Company. Over a thirty year period, Aramco discovered petroleum reserves in Saudi Arabia in excess of 180 billion barrels...a quarter of the known reserves of the planet at that time. And as the world aged and changed, the amount of oil consumed daily in world trade climbed dramatically, from 3.7 million barrels per day in 1950, to 9.0 mbpd in 1960, to 25.6 mbpd in 1970, to 34.2 million barrels per day in 1973 during the first Oil Crisis.

Consider this for better perspective: the average yield per well at the end of the 70's in the United States was 17 barrels per day per well, in Venezuela (one of the co-founders of OPEC) it was 186 barrels per day per well, and in Saudi Arabia (the other OPEC co-founder) it was 12,405 barrels each day per well. Wow! Just imagine if the internet companies today issued new, additional shares each day at this same rate as oil consumption...the stock price would plummet! But unlike internet stocks, because this oil is consumed, it must be replaced (and paid for) every single day.

But before I can move into the fascinating region of this miniseries that sheds light on how and why the Gold market is as it is today, this background is vital, so please bear with me, and I shall thank you for your patience. Oftentimes, understanding is its own reward, but in this case it may well prove essential for wealth preservation at a minimum. To begin, we must look at life in these United States (and in the process we will see a compelling reason that import barriers must be fought tooth and nail)...

What does the Texas Railroad Commission have to do with this story? Plenty. So much oil was being produced in Texas in the 1930's that engineers were concerned about depletion and wastage, and the owners would fret over the effects of oversupply that would at times bring the price per barrel down to ten cents. Tiny independent producers were often drilling side by side with the majors, but when the price slumped their profitability suffered more because they didn't have income from the downstream processes like the majors did. Because some of the individuals operating these independent companies happened to be multimillionaires, their complaining voices were heard thanks to their political contributions.

The state government responded by giving the Texas Railroad commission the power to regulate drilling. And while they didn't have the authority to set prices, they could regulate production levels. By setting an appropriate rate of production, oil would be conserved and this restricted supply would achieve price levels high enough to keep the independents in gravy. This Texas price became the American price, and also the world price (in the 1950's the U.S. was producing half of the world's oil.) This meant pure profit for the major companies with overseas production that cost only ten cents per barrel. To keep the price of oil up, what started as a gentlemen's agreement among the American oil companies to limit the imports of cheaper oil later became enforced by the U.S. government--known as the "invisible dike" against the outside world of cheap oil. Throughout the 1960's, the Persian Gulf offered the world oil at $1.80, while inside the "invisible dike" oil was being sold to the nation at the Texas price of $3.45 per barrel by the end of the decade.

The great irony is that a Venezuelan lawyer (and oil minister) named Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso studied and used the Texas Railroad Commission as his model for OPEC, which he co-founded with the Saudi Arabian director of the Office of Petroleum Affairs, Abdullah Tariki, in 1960. OPEC from the beginning maintained that oil was a depleting asset, and it had to be replaced by other assets to balance national budgets and fund developments.

Now that we know a bit about the producers and the price and cost of oil during the era of "real money," let us take a look at the dollar itself. The dollar and the world was pegged to Gold via the post-WWII Bretton Woods agreement in which $35 was convertible to one ounce--but for foreigners only, not U.S. citizens. The rate for international currency exchange was coordinated through the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with each currency pegged to each other through the dollar and Gold. The U.S. economy steamed along nicely in the 1950's, producing half of the world's oil as I've already stated, and half of the cars that burned up this oil. By the arrival of the 1960's, American industry was buying foreign factories, equipment and raw materials. In addition, the government was spending for its foreign bases and troops, and Vietnam was funded largely in the red.

An overhang of dollars was developing overseas--and while at first the foreigners were reassured that the Gold guarantee of the dollar was solid, as ever more dollars piled up, ever more of them cashed in the dollars for Gold. General de Gaulle summed up the sentiment, saying that America had "an exorbitant privilege" in ownership of the key-currency. By that he meant that the dollars America was able to issue via simple printing carried the same value in trade as the dollars that had to be earned by other nations through meaningful productivity. It quickly became clear that too many claims had been issued on the limited Gold, and President Nixon was prompted to close the Gold exchange window in the face of a certain run on the Treasury.

In a quick repeat from Part 1: " Upon the 1971 declaration by the United States that redemption of dollars for Gold would be terminated, the entities in receipt of dollars for balance of trade settlements had no difficulty recognizing this as an outright default on payment contracts. The scramble was on to make sense of this new payment system in which the dollar was no longer a THING of value (a small amount of Gold), but was now reduced to a CONCEPT of value; an undefined unit with which the world would denominate the amount of value in contracts for goods and services. The problem ever since has been in coming to terms with the meaning of value for this shifting and undefined unit, and its vulnerability for mismanagement and abuse."

With OPEC in place, and the dollar now rendered meaningless by traditional standards, the stage is adequately set to describe what followed. With OPEC now united and able to conserve, and threaten to cut back in the grand tradition of the Texas Railroad Commission, they were able to name their terms of payment, and decide essentially what value the dollar would have in oil terms. That is important enough to repeat: They were able to name their terms of payment, and decide essentially what value the dollar would have in oil terms. The increased world demand for oil ensured that the price would be met (Texas was pumping around the clock and still coming up short), and the printing presses essentially ensured that there would be no lack of dollars, so to speak.

It is important here to realize the attitude of OPEC, and notably the Middle East. In the mid 1970's, the finance ministers of both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia stressed that their needs were only to provide for the welfare of their citizens, and that oil in the ground is better than paper money. Who from the West can argue with that? They called our money's bluff, fair and square. So in 1971, while the Texas price of oil was $3.45, OPEC re-priced their Middle Eastern oil up from $1.80 to $2.20 (such audacity, don't you think?) only to see the market price due to demand in 1973 overtake the official posted price, at which point OPEC saw the writing on the wall, and in October raised the price per barrel to $5.12 while curbing production. By December, the Shah of Iran called a press conference to announce the official price would now be $11.65. Well, why not? It's only paper to you if you are not in NEED of this currency through a debt to someone else. And so began the First Oil Crisis of the 1970's.

The Shah of Iran (left) with President Nixon

Just as America had been issuing claim checks on the national Gold throughout the 1960's, its spending habits didn't change with the advent of the all-paper dollar. As a consequence, the world's greatest transfer of wealth was underway. Watching the rising cost of real estate became a national pastime in the 1970's--an odd distraction from the gas lines and cost of fuel. By raising the price of oil $10, from $1.80 to $11.65, at those current production levels OPEC raised its annual revenues by approximately 100 billion dollars. Now recall from Part 2 where I promised you we would tackle some large numbers, though nowhere near as incomprehensible as the $5.6 trillion U.S. debt. Here we go...

How much IS 100 billion dollars per year? It can't be much, because we all know the Middle East is heavily in debt with struggling economies even now at the end of the 1990's. Right? Well, I invite you to follow along, and judge for yourself. Let's try to spend that $100 billion, and is 1974. And let's not waste time on small stuff, we'll go right for the big ticket toys.

How about some F-14's? Fully equipped (minus missiles because we are a peaceful bunch) they are ours for $9 million each. Grumman on Long Island assembles 80 each year. Hell, let's take 'em all for $720 million. How about some F-15's too? At $12 million each, we conclude our visit to McDonnell Douglas with 100 under our arm for a cool $1.2 billion. Let's take home the biggest brute the U.S. has to offer--a top of the line nuclear-powered aircraft carrier for $1.4 billion. Better yet, make that two carriers. Throw in some destroyers, some submarines...let's see... We've spent a total of $2 billion on a kicking air force and a little more than that on a fine little navy. How much money is left in round figures? About $100 billion. And this amount comes in not only this year, but the next, and the next, and the next... [a side thanks to Mr. Goodman for these historical prices.] $100 billion is a large annual paycheck, and we haven't even touched the $30 and $40 dollar prices brought about in the Second Oil Crisis. Now consider again that America has written future claims on $5.6 trillion dollars. Can you imagine how such a figure might be settled? Ouch.

F-15 warplanes of the Saudi Air Force fly over the capital, Riyadh, during a graduation ceremony at King Faisal Air Force University on Sunday.
Hassan Ammar / AP

Where did all of this money come from? It would seem that America found an efficient means to issue claims on the country in exchange for something that goes up in smoke. Would OPEC own America lock, stock, and barrel? What would OPEC do with all of that cash? And would there be any end to it? How are the poorer countries that must EARN their dollars, as General de Gaulle indicated, going to fund their own oil needs? Banks are the answer. Buy banks, fill banks, and recycle the petrodollars. Oh, and let's not forget Gold. Straight from two ministers of finance, "We would rather keep the oil than have the paper money." We thank you for that insight.

Now that I have properly set the stage, in the next part I shall relate the really good stuff of Aragorn's tale suggesting where this money went, and how the system survived 20 years after the end was nigh, bringing cheap Gold crumbs for anyone mindful enough to pick them up. To quote that good knight, "With a payday reaching that magnitude, the question of destiny begs no answer. You set your own, and hope for nice weather."

Part 4 --- A 1970's History Lesson (without the disco)

One Oil Crisis down, one to go. We looked at some pretty incredible figures in Part 3. Where did this money go, and maybe more importantly, where does it come from? For the sake of brevity I will assume the reader is well acquainted with the process of money creation via modern banking. If not, then you have some important questions to ask and research to do. For now, accept on faith that new money is created (as a simple ledger entry at a bank) through the process of borrowing. A loan creates new money, and banks collectively may create money far in excess of what they hold on deposit. As a contract, the loan is quite real, but the dollar is not. A dollar is an undefined concept--an undefined unit of measurement for value, so to speak. You can see how such an arrangement favors those in a position to name their price.

As you can well imagine, for a country such as Saudi Arabia that had been subsisting on simple agriculture and the business of Pilgrims, a sudden infusion of such a magnitude of money can be seen as pure profit, and a fine opportunity for capital improvements to national infrastructure. Much of this money flowed back to the rest of the world to pay for international contractors and materials. But clearly, much more money was coming in than could possibly be spent. Vast sums of it found its way into the world's largest international banks--the five largest American, three largest Swiss, three biggest German, two biggest British, and then on to the next tier... Suddenly there were over one hundred banks that set up shop in tiny Bahrain: Citicorp, Chase Manhattan, Barclays, and Bank of Tokyo among them; all competing for surplus oil profit deposits. Paris suddenly found itself host to over 30 new Arab banks.

So much money flowed in, and so much was lent in turn to the poor countries that could scarcely afford to buy oil with their meager exports, that the financial system became a large game of musical chairs, and the biggest risk was that the music might stop. There were no chairs to sit on! To protect themselves from the unthinkable--that the Arabs might pull their deposits out of an individual bank--the banks developed a system. This system provided for the relatively smooth inter-lending of funds. Because even though a bank can create new money "out of thin air," they have to have deposits in the bank as a starting point. If these funds were to be withdrawn, the bank must locate other deposits to cover their outstanding loans. If the money were pulled, say from a British bank, it had to go somewhere; the amount of money was too great to "hide" for long. This British bank could call around, and arrange to borrow the funds back from a Swiss bank, or German bank, by paying a nominal interest rate on this inter-bank loan. The important concept to grasp here is this: as long as the petrodollars stayed in the banking system, the banking system would survive.

In fact, that is how the world weathered the storm of the First Oil Crisis. Such a grand scheme of inter-reliance was formalized by several central banks in a meeting in Switzerland to handle any event should money come up short in one area or another--the Basel Concordat. Have you ever heard of the LIBOR in any of your financial reading? Some credit card issuers make use of the LIBOR instead of the U.S. prime rate in their contracts. It is the London Inter-bank Offered Rate, and functions as the international bank borrowing rate, and it is the tie that binds the group together into a nearly seamless global financial System.

When the First Oil Crisis caused a global tightening of belts, only America, as the issuer of the key-currency, could shamelessly create new money with ease to pay its bills. Other countries had to balance their own books with productive output, or else turn to the banks to borrow the needed funds. And borrow they did! Let there be no doubt that these petrodollars were recycled through the banking system. Throughout the Oil Crisis and the distractions of the Nixon Watergate scandal, the former Secretary of Defense under the Johnson administration, and then president of the World Bank, Robert McNamara, was focused on one thing only--maintaining the good graces of OPEC. McNamara had to ensure continued access to OPEC's funds. During 1974, the World Bank had drawn on OPEC for $2.2 billion, for a total at the time of $3 billion--one quarter of all World Bank debt. For Euroland banks, business was booming because lending was their business. And the IMF had its hands full trying to hold together the international currency exchange system.

Some of the countries that quickly found themselves behind the eight-ball were: Brazil, Korea, Yugoslavia, the Philippines, Thailand, Kenya. (You can easily imagine that there aren't enough coffee drinkers in Saudi Arabia to achieve a meaningful balance of trade of coffee beans for oil for a country like Kenya.) So in a move driven more by politics than banking to ease the financial squeeze upon a nation's citizens and industry, the governments would turn to their central banks and to the international and multinational banks to secure the needed money. And the banks couldn't stop lending, because many countries relied on new loans to pay off the old loans in addition to their continued need for oil. Loans in default were simply rescheduled. There were no chairs, and the music could not be allowed to stop.

If a bank were to fail, what would the Arabs do with their remaining deposits, now clearly in jeopardy? Further, the inflationary impact of all of this borrowing was also a fact not lost on the OPEC nations. Many of the OPEC members' advisors and ministers held Ph.D.'s from prominent American colleges. They did not have their heads in the sand. The inflation would lead to a new price of oil just to recapture the value that was lost, and the cycle would intensify in the next round. OPEC knew the western currencies were depreciating faster they were compensating with price hikes. They were getting less "real" money as a result. Hopeless.

Remember Jelle Zijlstra with the "moon" comment earlier? As head of the BIS in 1980, he confidently predicted that the Second Oil Crisis could be worked through, slowly, but that the System (international financial system) could not survive a Third Oil Crisis--the inflation would make it impossible to recycle the petrodollars to the oil importing countries with any hope of repayment, trade would crumble, and the System would be brought to its knees. On that grim note, we need to take a quick look at how the world reacted to the Second Oil Crisis. It opens the door to everything that follows.

By now you are patiently awaiting mention of Gold. There it is. Now back to the story... No, seriously, pay attention here, and things will start to fall into place. I hope you have noticed the few references to oil prices throughout this series. In most cases, the oil was made available at a posted price. In the 1960's, OPEC's posted price was $1.80 (though sometimes the producers would undercut that to gain an advantage through additional volume), then it was $2.20, then $5.12, and within weeks it had been changed again to $11.65 (in late 1973). By May 14 of 1979 the posted OPEC price was $13.34 per barrel, but life was about to change. The key element to keep in mind is that oil was not priced directly by the market. It was mostly sold under long-term contracts at posted prices that were set by the producers after careful analysis of what the market could bear under self-determined production levels.

When the Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution deposed the Shah, Iran's 6 million barrel per day production fell off dramatically, and the resulting shortage sent the downstream processes scrambling for sources of oil anywhere to feed their refineries. Many turned to Rotterdam for oil, to fill their empty tanks. The deepwater port at Rotterdam was the principle harbor where huge tankers could be found to deliver oil on the spot, and hence the spot market for oil was often referred to as the Rotterdam market--but in truth, the spot market was available worldwide. This spot market was never meant to determine the price for oil, but was only supposed to supply day-to-day purchases.

Due to the stresses of low supply, the Rotterdam price sailed above the $13.34 posted OPEC price on Tuesday, May 15,1979 to $28, and two days later it reached $34. Iran immediately took what little production remained and sold on the Rotterdam market. OPEC then set a ceiling price for oil at $23.50 per barrel, but that was soon broken by Libya and Algeria. Obviously, Rotterdam was the place to sell oil at the best price, so many tankers with long-term contracts for oil stood empty waiting for delivery while ever more of OPEC-member production was diverted through Rotterdam. Countries and many companies looked at the low levels in their storage tanks, and soon they were rushing to support the Rotterdam market with their business. The "spot" price reached $40 per barrel as uncertainty about the future brought forth every empty tank or dilapidated tanker out of retirement to be filled.

Gresham's law can help explain this phenomenon-- bad money is spent and good money is saved. Oil was being bought and saved as a store of value, while paper money was spent. The flames of this Rotterdam inferno were eventually cooled as the last available storage tank was filled to capacity. This display of the spot value for oil reinforced OPEC's concept of value, and they had no qualms about raising the posted price to the spot value. Please recall, "We would rather keep the oil than have the paper money." Any student of history will also recall that the explosion in Gold prices also occurred in 1979 to early 1980, showing us Gold priced at $850 per ounce.

So what exactly has changed in the world since 1980? There haven't been any similar blowups in the pricing of important how was this wild tiger tamed? Is the money better than it once was? Or are the OPEC nations now suddenly and truly beggars upon the West's doorstep? What happened? Are the multinational banks (once scrambling to hold together the System) now calling the shots with nary a care in the world?

In Part 5, I put an end to this tale, and answer the biggest mysteries about Gold in the easiest of terms. The road will seem so straight and fair to travel, you will kick yourself for struggling through the brambles for so long, and wonder at your neighbors who STILL can't see the path, though it is truly a freeway.

Part 5 --- Gold, Money, and the Free Market

Before I conclude this commentary, let me first express my gratitude to USAGOLD for hosting this illuminating site, and for the tolerance I've been extended by so many here for my four long posts that up until this moment probably didn't seem germane to the topic of Gold.

On any journey, the first few steps are the most important, and in this case they were also the most difficult--to include enough for context without drifting off-topic. This last part is easy. The task at hand is to provide an explanation of Gold's pre-eminence as a monetary asset. Gold is, in fact, Money, while the dollar and others are merely currencies--an importance difference!

I am not claiming to be offering new findings of my own. The inspiration for this tale originated from many sources, comments Aragorn III offered to a small group last month, a knowledge of history, and keen perception. I have been challenged to render this tale into the clearest of terms suitable even for those not acquainted with Gold and worldly economics. If I have succeeded in my challenge, at the conclusion of this final part you will fully grasp how the free market has managed to provide a sophisticated asset (Gold) at a laughably minute fraction of its relative value. You will know that Gold is Money, and will gain new respect for its "price." Although this information isn't new, it might be new to you, and hopefully this explanation of financial operations with Gold, together with the background information of the 1970's Oil Crises, will help you anticipate and conclude for yourself an outlook for events ahead, and will also help you to better understand and evaluate the important messages being presented by ANOTHER and FOA, in addition to the other worthy knights of this Table round. Knowledge is power, and with it your destiny shall be yours to decide.

To start, I'm going to paraphrase some specific remarks made by Aragorn III that some people need to hear and think about, though most of the Forum posters are already in tune with this.

'The falling price of Gold has had various effects on people. The common person says, "Of course it is falling, because Gold has been demonetized." The Goldheart knows better, so the falling price has a more remarkable effect, bringing out insecurities and irrationalities of some. Though these people don't question that Gold is money, their insecurities start to question whether the world really needs money at all... that somehow this greatest device of mankind has been antiquated. Simply preposterous. If they knew the truth they would confidently buy today at triple the price and call it a bargain of a lifetime. People ask, "Why waste effort to dig up Gold from the ground, only to rebury it in vaults?" I say, "For the same reason the central banks toil to print millions of fancy notes that nobody reads. If you've read one, you've read them all." The effort is needed to prevent cheating, though we easily see the fancy cash does not stem the abusive tide of money from nothing. People also say, "Gold is a dead asset. It does not earn interest." What is the point of such a comment, to demonstrate their naiveté? Did banks not pay interest when coins were stamped from Gold?

You see, it is not the nature of money itself to earn interest, but rather, it is the investment risk that maybe earns a reward. A modern dollar in a shoebox is as a Gold coin beside it. No interest for either. You should know the interest paid by a bank savings account is not a product of the money itself, but instead it is the rewards on the risk the bank takes with the money you have provided for their investment use. Sometimes these banks choose poorly, and in those cases even the modern dollar earns no interest, and does not come back at all--lost with the closing of the bank doors. Money must be risked (invested) to expect a yield, and in this regard, the big players in the world risk Gold money as they do paper money (though often not as aggressively), while the small players are content with the shoebox yield. You are forced to be more aggressive (more risky) with paper because its value dies quickly, unlike Gold that stands forever even in a shoebox of no risk.'

With that, I will now conclude this tale that shows Gold functioning in its role as Money. And because preconceived notions of words often cloud a person's ability to see the case before them, I shall try to deliver this message with the slightest use of such terms as Gold loans, leases, shorts, etc. In fact, I will be so bold as to simply refer to Gold as Money (I will write it as "Money (Gold)" to ensure you know my meaning, but as you read, simply pronounce it as money). As far as what you might think is money (dollars, yen, pesos, etc.), I shall from this point forward not call them money, but refer to them by their given name (dollars, yen, pesos, etc.) or else will call them "fiat currency," or just "currency" for short. Fiat means "by decree, and fiat currency is currency because the government tells us it is.

Enough of the preamble. Let's pick up where we left off from Part 4. In days past, the oil exporters had been poor to modest countries scraping by when two things occurred. They discovered that they owned lots and lots of oil, and they also found that the rest of the world had developed a voracious appetite for oil. Think how different the world situation would be today if this supply of oil had simply never existed. We are certainly lucky to have its availability, and it is a reasonable expectation to pay fairly for all that we take.

We've already discussed much of the turmoil that resulted from consumption that outpaced ability to pay. Payment in Money (Gold) was terminated, and many payment scenarios were developed in addition to the ever rising prices in paper currency. While it can be suggested that currency is a reasonable means in which to track balance of trade accounts (equating oil exports with similar value of imports such as infrastructure improvements), it should be readily admitted that paper currency is an unacceptable means in which to pocket one's profits. Book the trade balances with paper currency, but pocket the profits (savings) with Money (Gold). That's what I do every month, too!

Paper currency was falling fast in value when it was no longer tied to Money (Gold), and this was causing international settlement difficulties on many fronts in addition to oil. It is instructive to investigate some of the tools of the international financial System, because what worked for Money (Gold) and currency back then, certainly works for Money (Gold) today. (Please reread the paraphrasing of Aragorn's money comments if you have forgotten them already.)

Back in the 1960's when dollars were still tied to Money (Gold) under the Bretton Woods agreement, the American penchant to spend for goods abroad led Kennedy's Undersecretary for Monetary Affairs, Robert Roosa, to fear a mass "cashing in" of these dollars in international hands for Money (Gold)--a run on the Treasury. Roosa created a new financial device, referred to as a "Roosa bond," which was a special issue of Treasury bonds that were denominated in Swiss francs. As the bonds were sold to the world, they would sop up excess U.S. dollars with the terms that repayment at a future date would be in a given quantity of Swiss francs. (Notice I said quantity, and not value.) While these Roosa bonds stemmed the tide of a possible run on the Treasury, they ended up costing America more because the Swiss currency appreciated versus the dollar during the life of the bond.

In 1978, the U.S. issued 10 billion dollars worth of bonds denominated in foreign currencies (marks or yen) to milk extra life out of a dying dollar system, and the fix lasted until the 1979 Oil Crisis made mincemeat of it. It was an acknowledgment that some foreign investors wouldn't hold U.S. government obligations that would be repaid in dollars worth less than originally spent on the bond. Further, it was at this time that the U.S. promised to sell Money (Gold) from the Fort Knox stockpile to foreign central banks unwilling to hold dollars. (On his last day of office, March 31, 1978, Federal Reserve chairman Arthur Burns suggested that the entire $50 billion of the nation's Gold stock be sold for foreign currency in defense of the dollar, at which time the foreign reserves could be used to buy up the collapsed dollar in international markets. While this plan was originally rejected, within three weeks the Treasury Department was forced to announce it would auction Money (Gold) on a regular basis.)

Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal pledged in a meeting two days later with top-level Arab businessmen that the integrity of the dollar would be defended vigorously, and asked them to do their part to stabilize the global economy by keeping a price freeze on oil in place at least through 1978. (You should have no questions now about where the dollar found its value after the 1971 delinking with Money (Gold). The asking price by oil--influenced by many factors--is what established the dollar's value.)

It is also important to realize that not all international arrangements are conducted on the open market. For example, to avoid the German mark from being bid up in strength with a result of ever more people bringing them dollars for an exchange, Germany's Bundesbank issued bonds directly to the Middle Eastern buyers, avoiding the marketplace impact altogether. This was at the time Saudi Arabia was swimming in cash and spreading the excess among the world's largest banks (as mentioned in Part 4). My point is this (which I shall expand on soon): don't be surprised that banks are far more creative in their operations than revealed in your common experience through savings and checking accounts and home loans.

Eliyahu Kanovsky, an oil economist, won renown by many for accurately forecasting long-term oil production and pricing trends by OPEC where all others had gotten it wrong. In the 1970's he maintained that economics, not politics, were the determining forces behind the decisions of OPEC. In 1986 he wrote in response to the prevailing notion that OPEC would eventually own the world as a result of its oil wealth: "It is, by now, abundantly clear that these forecasters committed gross errors not only in terms of magnitude of change, but, far more important, in terms of direction of change. Instead of increased dependence on OPEC and especially Middle East oil, there has been a very sharp diminution. ... Oil prices have been weakening almost steadily since 1981 and there has been a collapse since the end of 1985. Instead of rising 'petrodollar' surpluses, most OPEC countries, and Saudi Arabia in particular, are incurring large current account deficits in their balances of payments, and are rapidly drawing down their financial reserves."

In the 1990's, Kanovsky maintains that OPEC has lost its ability to raise income through raising prices, and that oil below $20 is virtually assured. (This should remind you of Milton Friedman's poor prognostication from Part 1.) Kanovsky claims competition among producers ensures an end to price fixing. They can only pump it and sell it for whatever the market will provide. He contends (rightfully so) that Iraq can be counted on to "pump like mad" upon lifting of UN sanctions. He also contends that with the current account deficits of many OPEC members, notably the Saudis, they have no option themselves but to add to the oil glut with overproduction to raise revenue.

Since it has been brought to our attention by Kanovsky, let's take a look at the Saudi budget, and the toll taken on it in the aftermath of the Gulf War. IMF data reveals that the Saudi deficit climbed from $4.3 billion in 1990 to $25.7 billion in 1991. Oil had been selling at around $14 per barrel until June 1990 when Saddam Hussein pressured OPEC to raise the price to about $20 to help repair Iraq's national budget (which had been wiped out and sent into the red by their 1980-88 war on Iran). Iraq's subsequent invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 temporarily spiked the price higher.

Here I must ask you to pause for a moment to reflect on those huge oil trade surplus figures we toyed with in Part 3, and recall that they were from early 1970's oil demand at a price of $11.65 which caused the First Oil Crisis. What happened to the vast amounts of petrodollar revenue that was being pumped into international banks, and recycled as fast as the loans could be written to borrowers throughout the 1970's? Further, what happened to the earnings that were surely being generated on these deposits through the activities of the lending institutions? As I noted at the end of Part 4, the System miraculously survived the Second Oil Crisis of 1979, and concurrently the skyrocketing price of Gold promptly abated in 1980. Further, Kanovsky points out that oil prices started weakening in 1981, and then plunged in 1985. Force yourself to make the connections. You will be one step ahead of Kanovsky, who has identified the effect, but no doubt has missed the cause entirely. Let us now tie together everything we know, and fill in the remaining pieces.

Historically, the price of oil had been simply posted by the producers for contracted delivery until it was unleashed to respond to daily supply/demand forces on the "spot" Rotterdam market, at which time the price exploded in 1979-80. Although the dollar had been historically fixed to Money (Gold), after it was unpegged in 1971, the currency price of Money (Gold) was determined by the daily supply and demand, similar to Rotterdam. Gold auctions began in May of 1978 because the U.S. had trouble getting international entities to accept its dollar currency. After "booking" their trade balances with dollars, the House of Saud, among others, wanted to "pocket" their profits with Money (Gold), and therefore competed with everyone in the world for Gold on the spot market. As the price shot right through $700 it was clear that every ounce purchased made it that much more difficult to purchase the next ounce. There was little trouble raising the price of oil as needed, except the financial structure of the world was coming apart at the seams. Each dollar withdrawn from international banks to buy Money (Gold) made life ever more difficult for the banks to square their books against outstanding loans or to write new loans. There had to be a better way...the return of Money!

The high price of Gold brought mining companies out of the woodwork. The Earth was suddenly crawling with geologists looking for the next jackpot Gold deposit. The mining companies needed capital to finance the construction of these numerous new mines. It's not strange to you to accept that banks can lend currency. It should not be difficult for you to accept that banks can lend Money (Gold) also. Struggling with that thought? Don't. They lent Money (Gold) in the days prior to Roosevelt's 1933 confiscation of Money (Gold) in exchange for currency, and they can lend Money (Gold) today. In fact, they can even create Money (Gold) out of thin air, in a manner of speaking, and I'll walk you through it.

Sometimes a parallel familiarity assists comprehension. Consider the existence of Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSE's) such as the Federal National Mortgage Association (commonly known as Fannie Mae). Fannie Mae is in the business of creating financing for people to acquire a house. The government's involvement in this affair is that they underwrite the risk of a default on the repayment of the loan. Dollars are borrowed, dollars are lent, and dollars are repaid. It doesn't matter what happens to the exchange rate of the dollars versus other currencies. A certain amount of dollars are owed, plain and simple, under the terms of the loan contract. If a home mortgage loan is sold on the secondary market, the purchaser of the loan is effectively buying not the house that was financed by this loan, but rather the rights to receive the borrower's scheduled repayments over a span of time.

Think of a loan to a mining company in a similar fashion. Interest rates on Money (Gold) loans are often much less than on currency loans because the Money (Gold) holds its inherent value over time (despite its "price",) whereas the paper currency fails so fast you must return more for the lender to at least break even, not to mention show a profit for the risk. Because miners will be pulling Money (Gold) out of the ground, it makes the most sense to them to seek a loan of Money (Gold) rather than currency in order to finance their new mine construction. But because Caterpillar has its head in the sand, it requests dollar currency for the purchase of its mining equipment, so an exchange must be made for paper currency as an integral part of this Money (Gold) loan. These arrangements can take place in every conceivable fashion, but this following example will be representative.

As 1980 arrived, the Saudis naturally still wanted Money (Gold) for their oil, and the rest of the world was struggling with liquidity. Much currency "wealth" had already been transferred to OPEC, leaving many countries toiling to service their own debts--much of their credit existing as recycled petrodollars. Let the lending continue! Bullion banks would facilitate these deals, and central banks (CB's) would act in the same capacity as with the GSE Fannie Mae, guaranteeing ultimate repayment in the event of a borrower's default. In this simple example, the House of Saud could be looked at as the principle lender (although the borrower doesn't see this)...providing the currency equivalent of the Money (Gold) borrowed by the mining company to pay for Caterpillar's equipment to build the mine. Because this is contracted as a Money (Gold) loan, Money (Gold) must be repaid over time. In a sense, from the Saudis' viewpoint it is similar to the Roosa bonds where U.S. dollars are paid for the bond, with a fixed amount of another currency (in this case, Money (Gold)) expected to be returned upon maturity.

With the simple but vital central bank guarantee against the default of these Money (Gold) loans, the House of Saud, for example, would have no qualms about supplying the cash side, effectively buying not the Gold metal immediately, but rather the rights to receive the borrower's Gold repayments over a span of time. Just like buying a home loan on the secondary market. And the Money (Gold) of the central bank need not ever move or change ownership unless the borrower defaults on the loan, and the CB is obligated to deliver on its guarantee for the full repayment in Money(Gold).

There is nothing sinister in all of this. The price of Gold has fallen simply because anti-gold sentiment has been fostered throughout the common investment markets while the principle buyer at the Golden "Rotterdam market" had found another avenue in which to obtain the Money (Gold) desired in exchange for oil profits. This is very much like the off-market Bundesbank offerings that I mentioned about earlier. Please appreciate the patience in this approach, and the commitment it shows to Money (Gold), knowing full well that for many years it might be getting ever cheaper, while they would appear the fool for buying it from the top prices all the way down to the lowest. But the big payoff is in the end--which is near--and I'll get to that.

Now that you grasp the basics, let's take things up one level. So many Money (Gold) loans were written, that the House of Saud in our example spent down their past petrodollar surpluses. What now? It is time for banks to do what banks do best...create new money. This is the typical example I promised you earlier:

The miner approaches a bullion bank for a Money (Gold) loan. Let's assume the current dollar price of Money (Gold) is $400 per ounce, and the miner needs $20 million to pay Caterpillar for equipment. The bullion bank (such as can be found operating in the network of the London Bullion Market Association--LBMA) writes the Money (Gold) loan contract specifying the term of repayment of 50,000 ounces of Money (Gold) plus interest at 1% - 2%. The borrowing miner collateralizes this Money (Gold) loan with company stock, the deed to the mine, etc., and is sent down the road with $20 million in currency for Cat. Where did this cash come from? The bullion bank turned to the House of Saud, which is currently out of currency. However, using their oil in the ground as collateral, the bullion bank is able to write them a currency loan out of thin air (just like banks can do) with which the Saudis purchase the repayment rights on the Money (Gold) loan. They will be receiving future Gold for their future oil! As they sell oil, they will use their dollar revenue to repay their currency loans, and in the meanwhile, the miner's Gold loan repayments will be directed to the Saudis' account.

What does the bullion bank get for all this trouble? First, the central bank gets 1% - 2% for underwriting or guaranteeing the loan. (Just like the underwriting done with Fannie Mae.) The bullion bank had added on top of this low interest rate an applicable margin for its cost of funds to establish the final interest rate for the miner that borrowed the Money (Gold). This rate might run 3% - 5% (while currency loans would demand much more.) Each year the miner produces Gold, and after paying the required installment of Money (Gold) for the Loan, the remainder of his annual production can be sold on the spot market for currency used to meet business expenses.

There's one hitch. Because the biggest Gold buyer is no longer shopping on the spot market, the pricing pressure has come off, and prices could very well be expected to fall. To protect against this leading to the possible bankruptcy of the miner, and hence his default on the repayment of Gold, the terms of the Loan might also require that the miner lock-in a certain amount of future production at the current Gold prices at the hedging counter. (Economists first scrutinize the mining plan to ensure that it will in fact be viable at current prices before granting the Loan.)

As described so far, it should come as no surprise that the House of Saud would also step right up to purchase the delivery side of this hedged production. Enough must be hedged to ensure the mine will remain viable (even at lower prices) at least long enough to repay the Loan. Let's assume this mine is operating today with Money (Gold) at $260 per ounce, while their cost of production is actually $320. The current price of Money (Gold) is not a factor on the Loan repayment...they owe 50,000 (plus interest) ounces, regardless. Any additional production would be sold under the terms of their hedge, at $400 per ounce, and they can pay their bills comfortably and stay in business. Is the House of Saud a fool for paying $400 long ago for the Loaned ounces, and for paying $400 today to honor such hedged ounce agreements? You or I could pay $260 today for that same ounce on the spot market. Have you started to develop a new opinion of your currency, or at least a new opinion of Money(Gold)?

OK, so what else does the bullion bank get out of this, other than the applicable margin on the Money(Gold) loan mentioned above? It also collects the interest on the currency loan that was written to the Saudis using their oil as collateral. You can see how the mechanism that has brought us temporarily cheap Money (Gold) over the years has also given us cheap oil not subject to the same shocks witnessed in the Seventies. You can also see why the economists can look at the Saudi balance books and see tremendous currency debts and budget deficits where once there were surpluses that threatened to buy up the world. They have in fact bought up a significant portion of the Gold mined well into the future...through Loans and Hedges bought all the way down from the top. So who are we to question whether to exchange our currency for Gold now or tomorrow, and to gripe over a missed opportunity of $10? The equation is simple. If you have cash, buy Gold immediately, because the downward trend has become terribly unstable. Here's why...

The various financial Hedge Funds saw how easy it was for miners to raise low interest capital, and further appreciated the fact that even if they were not themselves a producer of Gold, the Gold itself needed for repayment could be purchased on the spot market at ever lower prices. The Hedge Funds could meanwhile invest the capital received through taking out this Loan and expect to have a double profit potential in the end. (The infamous Gold Carry Trade would invest the currency received through the 1-2% Gold Loan into U.S. bonds that yield over 5%.) And of course, with the proper central bank guarantees, the House of Saud would be there to buy up the repayment contracts expected on these Money (Gold) loans also.

The problem is that these speculating Hedge Funds have cumulatively driven the price so low (well beyond where mines would have long ago stopped seeking this type of Loan) that some unhedged mines are shutting down or going bankrupt. This aggravates the spot market with thin supplies of real metal reaching it (due to so much production already having delivery obligations) such that it becomes hypersensitive to any real effort to make substantial purchases there.

As a result, the Hedge Funds will be in for a rude awakening in their efforts to purchase the Gold needed to repay their Loans. And the bullion banks are sweating, because they stand next in line having facilitated the Money(Gold) loans and pledged to the CB's that they were credit worthy of the CB Gold guarantees. And the important Oil Producer sees that the big bucks paid long ago for future Gold delivery has actually purchased only uncertain arrival. And further, some miners, despite their hedges, have played fast and loose liquidating them for cash, and through general mismanagement have not been able to stay so viable as to ensure future operation and delivery of the repayment terms.

The CB's are fretting because their guarantees were used over and over again, and they are on the hook for a lot of Money (Gold) when the speculating Hedge Funds and bullion banks find it impossible to cover their Loan repayment obligations on the spot market as the price races away from them due to the hypersensitivity that low supply has caused. Shades of Rotterdam. Currently aggravating this spot market problem is the massive demand by individuals brought about by the low prices and concerns for Y2K. I hope this gives you new perspective on the push lately by some CB's to free up some Money (Gold) from the vaults, whether it is Bank of England, IMF, or maybe even Swiss. It should also give you perspective on the anti-gold propaganda delivered regularly by the media. Consider that a skyrocketing price of Gold would not only be viewed by the masses as a viable investment avenue, it would also tend to shake the confidence in paper currencies, and threaten the banking system and Wall Street in general.

It is this same currency, borrowed against oil collateral for the purchase of Gold that has added the massive liquidity to the world over the past decade and a half that many people have used in turn to fan the flames of the stock markets here and overseas. That's a lot of cash born unto Gold, and were it not for the prospects of receiving the real wealth of Gold metal, this supply of currency would have been stillborn, and oil would likely only come forth by way of brute force rather than by civil, economic means. I realize that I have left a lot out, but this should get you started along the clear road traveled by smart currency. Now, knowing what you know, what would you do with your dimes? Because this is really his tale, not mine, I'll leave you once again with perhaps my favorite statement made by Aragorn one evening last month among his old friends. "If I were given a dime for every time I cursed the market for providing easier gold, I'd have a dime...and that one was found on my way over here."

Everyone, your comments are welcome. And thanks again to MK for the USAGOLD forum and for the opportunity to obtain a world-class Money education and shiny yellow metal diplomas all at the same place!

Gold. Heading to the moon at a world near you. ---Aristotle


The above was written in 1999. The original can be found here.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's the Flow, Stupid

"Gold has always been funny in that way. So many people worldwide think of it as money, it tends to dry up as the price rises."
(ANOTHER, 1997)

All the gold in the world is a fixed quantity. It always has been. It just gets moved around like poker chips on a table. Some of it is still in the ground and some is above ground, in portable form. But it is all owned by someone, underground or above. If it was sufficient to simply trade paper ownership certificates then there would be no need to pull it out of the ground at all. We could just estimate how much was down there and then trade ownership rights. But it is not sufficient, especially for cross-border trade. Never has been. And this is why we pull it out of the ground.

In the monetary roles of 'numéraire/accounting unit' and 'store of value', this gold has been the most reliable money the world has ever known. But those of us who are savers know from personal experience that gold need not be the medium between every single exchange. We generally work four months out of the year to cover the government's "cost of living," seven months to cover our own cost of living, and one month to add to our capital account, our savings. We really only need the gold for that last month's efforts. Debtors, of course, work those last months just to service their debts. So they don't need gold at all.

But for a saver whose income is derived from depleting his capital, like a gold dealer or an oil producer, the required flow of gold is a much greater percentage of gross receipts than a saver who, say, produces cheap goods for Walmart. While the latter might require a flow of 5% of gross receipts in order to slowly grow his capital account, the former needs a flow sometimes as high as 95% of gross receipts just to stay even!

Imagine a gold dealer who sells 10 ounces of his own stock for $14,000. He must then replace his stock and refill his capital account, so he turns around and buys 10 ounces for $13,500. He has just made himself an income of $500. His gross receipts were $14,000. And he required a gold flow of 96% just to keep his capital account even. Now think about the oil reserve owner. His oil reserve is his main capital asset, just like gold to the gold dealer. But oil doesn't get shuffled around like poker chips on a table. It goes up in smoke. So what does the oil producer use to keep his capital assets even? Promises?

Of course above ground gold is much more valuable than gold still in the ground. And likewise, value is added to oil as it is pulled out of the ground. It is now able to be sold, traded, refined and consumed. It is this added value that the oil producer uses to fund his lavish cost of living. In this way, the oil producer is more like the gold mine owner than the gold dealer, as the gold miner need only retain a small portion of what he pulls out of the ground to keep his capital account even.

Unpublicized gold for oil deals are nothing new. The first known deal was 65 years ago, right at the beginning of Bretton Woods:
To collectors, however, the most interesting Saudi gold coins weren’t coins at all; they were “gold discs” Similar to coins, they were minted by the Philadelphia Mint in the 1940’s for Aramco, and bore, on one side, the U.S. Eagle and the legend “U.S. Mint, Philadelphia, USA” and, on the other side, three lines on the fineness and weight. They looked like coins, they were used as coins, but, technically, they weren’t coins.

In the 1950’s, numismatists were puzzled by these “discs” until - in 1957 – the story emerged in The Numismatist. Aramco, required to pay royalties and other payments in gold to the Saudi government, could not obtain the gold at the monetary price fixed by the United States so the U.S. government specifically began to mint the “discs” – actually bullion in coin form for these payments. In 1945, for example, the mint turned out 91,210 large discs worth $20, and, in 1947, 121,364 small discs worth $5, according to The Numismatist.
(Saudi Aramco World, 1981 print edition)

The coins were struck in Philadelphia by the United States Mint in 1945 and 1947 to satisfy the obligations of the Arabian American Oil Company, or Aramco, which had been set up in Saudi Arabia by four American oil companies. The company was obliged to pay the Saudi Government $3 million a year in oil royalties and its contract specified that the payment be made in gold.

The United States dollar at the time was governed by a gold standard that, at least officially, made the dollar worth one thirty-fifth of an ounce of gold. But the price of gold on the open market had skyrocketed during World War II.

For a time the Saudis accepted payment in United States currency, but by 1945 they were insisting that the payments in gold be resumed. Aramco sought help from the United States Government. Faced with the prospect of either a cutoff of substantial amounts of Middle Eastern oil or a huge increase in the price of Saudi crude, the Government minted 91,120 large gold disks adorned with the American eagle and the words "U.S. Mint -- Philadelphia." (New York Times, 1991)

US Mints ‘Gold Disks’ for Oil Payments to Saudi Arabia

There is an extremely important point hidden in those articles. Can you guess what it is?

It is that the price of gold does not matter to the producer/saver, only the flow of gold matters. I'll say it again. The producer/saver doesn't care about the price of gold, only the flow. To the producer/saver the price doesn't matter because it is a straight currency exchange, like exchanging dollars for euros.

Did you see it in the article? Aramco owed the Saudis $3 million a year, but it had to be paid in gold. They didn't owe 2.67 tonnes of gold per year, but that's what they had to pay because the US fixed the price of gold at $35 per ounce. The US could have raised the price of gold to $100/ounce and then it would have only had to ship .93 tonnes of gold to the Saudis! Would the Saudis have been displeased with such a move? No. The guaranteed price of gold only matters to the printer of paper gold. To the producer/savers, all that matters is the guaranteed flow of physical!

Up until 1971 the US administered the flow of physical gold within the official international dollar banking system. If you were not an insider you paid sometimes as much as $70 per ounce for the same gold:
The bullion coins were crated and shipped to Bombay, where the $35-an-ounce American gold was sold for $70 an ounce. Most of the coins were melted into bars and later sold in Macao.
(New York Times, 1991)

During this time dollars outside the US were "as good as gold" while dollars inside were not. FOA called these internal dollars "Fiat 33" after the Presidential order of 1933 that made all internal dollars irredeemable in gold. Oil produced inside the US or even in Canada and Mexico could be purchased with "Fiat 33" dollars, while overseas oil required paper gold, redeemable in US Treasury physical gold. Even the Saudis eventually accepted the US paper gold, as long as a portion of it was regularly redeemed.

Then, in 1971, the US stopped the flow of official gold. What followed was this:

We all know why the flow of official gold was cut off, right?

Well, maybe not. Here was FOA's explanation:

FOA (12/5/99; 17:38:01MDT - Msg ID:20347)

The world did begin to walk away from the dollar! It plunged and remained on a downward trend for several years! The US knew their option was to raise gold prices prior to 71 (just as I offered in the last post). But oil was the major problem link! Every oil person in the US knew we were running out of local reserves at the old "gold backed" dollar price. All the Middle East had to do was wait us out as they were happy to out produce and supply us in exchange for "real dollar backed gold". You see, oil was and is the real driver of all economic production.

We could have raised the dollar price of gold to settle our accounts but that would not have raised the local oil price enough to make deep reserves available. Yes the dollar would have depreciated somewhat and foreign oil would have gone up, but not enough. The need for more local reserves and the higher dollar prices that could make them available is what drove the 71 gold window closure. They had us and we had them.

At that time we were buying local oil with "fiat dollars" (made so by the 1933 internal gold confiscation) and foreign oil with "gold dollars". But, as you pointed out, dollar production was so far past its "gold backing" that it was obvious they (USA) were pegging dollar printing to oil prosperity. Still, with London gold and oil mostly settled in dollars, the foreign dollar oil deals fully well expected to cash in unneeded dollars for gold. As we can see, reality and present day events of that time were as "mismatched" as today!

The US wanted new oil reserves to be "Local" (the Americas), because it could be paid in "fiat 33" cash, not the more golden "foreign cash". Both our neighbours to the north and south never asked for much gold. In this light they acted like the local oil companies that received post 1933 dollars for oil (as mentioned above). Yet, to get these new reserves for fiat 33, they had to prevent the very cheap Middle East oil from supplying it all.

Wow! So I think he said that the 1970's spike in oil prices was actually desired by those in charge of the dollar's management. That they had out-printed the gold reserves already and wanted to somewhat temper that development. Did it work out exactly as they hoped? Of course not. But that's not the point. The point is that the producer/savers need gold to flow. And the US cut off that flow.

Now obviously (at least I think it should be obvious to everyone) I believe ANOTHER and FOA were 100% credible. I believe they had some unrevealed yet deep inside connection to European central banking and the gold for oil deals in London that only a European central banker would know about.

But I do realize that most of you do not share my credulity toward these two. So I think that you may find this interview from last week somewhat intriguing. In it, John Defterios of CNN International's "Marketplace Middle East" interviews Sheikh Zaki Yamani, the Saudi oil minister from 1962 to 1986. That's right, he was the Saudi oil minister during the 1973 oil shock!

It's a short video and the relevant part is in the first 90 seconds. I'll even give you the transcript:
John Defterios: 1973, the Arab oil embargo, you were a key player during that process. The former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said it was political blackmail what Saudi Arabia and OPEC were doing to the rest of the world. In retrospect how did you see it?

Sheikh Yamani: Well that’s a very long story, and the reaction of America for what happened is not a one reaction. They decided to raise the price of oil 400%. They needed to help the oil companies to invest outside OPEC. In Mexico, in North Sea and so on. And this will not happen without a high price of oil.

According to Yamani, what happened in 1973 was twofold. There was an American plan, and also an OPEC overreaction. 1973 was, according to Yamani, the first time that OPEC flexed its muscles as an organization. From the full transcript of the interview:
Sheikh Yamani: Yes and there was an agreement between the Shah of Iran and between Dr.Henry Kissinger to raise the price of oil… I really highly respect Henry Kissinger. He is really a planner and strategically he is a man to be respected.

Is it true? I don't know. But I think it's true. Not because I believe Sheikh Yamani, but because I believe FOA and ANOTHER were 100% honest, credible and deeply resourced. And Sheikh Yamani happens to corroborate what FOA wrote eleven years earlier.

But whether or not it's true is beside the point, which is the same point ANOTHER made in his very first post, quoting his friend and fellow poster, "Hong Kong Big Trader":

It was once said that "gold and oil can never flow in the same direction". If the current price of oil doesn't change soon we will no doubt run out of gold.

Now you might think he was saying "If the current price of oil doesn't RISE soon we will no doubt run out of gold." But he didn't say rise, he said change. And it is not as simple as you would think.

From 1980 through 2001 gold did flow, though not in the efficient way it would in a free market. With the expansion of the gold forward sales and futures markets, the Saudis and the third world bought up all excess physical gold flow. As ANOTHER said in his very VERY first post, which is prior to even the USAGold archives:

September 14, 1997 by "ANOTHER"

The CBs are becoming "primary suppliers" to the gold market. Understand that they are not doing this because they want to, they have to. The [CB] words are spoken to show a need to raise capital but we knew that was a [smoke] screen from long ago. You will find the answer to the LBMA problem if you follow a route that connects South Africa, The Middle East, India and then into Asia!

Remember this; the Western world uses paper as a real value, but oil and gold will never flow in the same direction. Big Trader

"South Africa, The middle east, India and then into Asia!" This was where the physical was flowing while we, in the West, were becoming enamored with paper gold trading. No longer did the US Treasury have to supply ITS gold, the market was supplying gold for it. But keeping the physical flow bought up, cornered as it were, was putting a great deal of stress on the paper market of the LBMA by the mid-1990's. It's all about the flow remember, the flow of PHYSICAL that is. FOA:

FOA (12/04/99; 21:34:03MDT - Msg ID:20282)

Earlier this year, old bullion supply dried up and it looked like the last of the private "old stocks of gold" had finally run out. Then the price shock from the Washington Agreement flushed out some more. I've written on this before (and ORO told it better than I), but the more the old holders sell out in return for holding "unallocated gold accounts" the worse the shortage will be when the marketplace fails. Slowly, over many years, the people that now hold the real bullion that was sold to create a lot of paper gold, have literally locked up the ownership. The old liquid gold market we used to know in years past functioned because of all the private physical holders that traded it. Now, it's all paper being shuffled around.

This gets back to your LBMA item. The old, deep private bullion pool has been replaced with a paper commitment pool. In the past, if someone defaulted, we just grabbed their bullion. Today, if they default, they just default! Again, if that big African mine does tell them to take a hike, the whole modern gold market could just collapse. This is why I smile when I hear someone question why the big funds and traders don't just take delivery against OTC paper. The question is just exactly what are they going to take delivery of?

All the gold movement is just for show. Same for Comex. Sock a little gold in there and complete a few deliveries so it all looks right. It's all the same game we played with the dollar before 1971. Only when everyone asked for delivery did we find out that the world was awash in paper gold,,,,,I mean dollars! It's going to happen again, real soon.


Date: Tue Oct 07 1997 22:37

You see, when paper trading volume dries up it's a bearish sign, but when real physical gold volume drops it's bullish! That's because gold is being cornered on a scale never seen in history. LBMA is doing its best to show real volume exists!

Date: Sun Oct 05 1997 21:29

The Western governments needed to keep the price of gold down so it could flow where they needed it to flow. The key to free up gold was simple. The Western public will not hold an asset that's going nowhere, at least in currency terms. The problem for the CBs was that the third world has kept the gold market "bought up" by working thru South Africa! To avoid a spiking oil price the CBs first freed up the public's gold thru the issuance of various types of "paper future gold". As that selling dried up they did the only thing they could, become primary suppliers!

You see, after 1980, "oil" started trusting paper gold again, just like it did in the 1950's, as long as some of it could be exchanged for physical. But having been burned once, in 1971, they weren't about to be burned again. And what the euro CB's figured out was all that mattered to the producer/savers of the world was the guaranteed FLOW of physical gold, NOT the guaranteed price or weight/mass. (And this is why we pull it out of the ground: so it can FLOW!)

This is what the euro architecture guarantees in the case of a dollar (paper gold market) failure: that physical gold will flow… uninhibited! It does this through its "severed link" association with its own official monetary gold reserves, allowing them to float against the currency and publicly proclaiming this policy every three months in its quarterly "marked to market" consolidated statement. This is something the Fed simply cannot do because the Fed's "gold stocks" are irredeemable paper gold Treasury certificates marked at $42.22 per ounce. The US Treasury owns all the gold. The Fed owns paper (and electronic book entry, post 1935) certificates that are irredeemable to the Fed, so how can it possibly mark them to market?

Notice the Fed still quotes its "(paper) gold stock" (or "gold certificate account" as it is listed on the consolidated statement) on its own balance sheet as 11,041. That is in millions of dollars, so 11,041 is really $11,041,000,000 divided by $42.22 per ounce which comes out to 261,511,132 ounces which, surprise surprise, comes out to 8133.5 tonnes, the same amount voluntarily reported to the WGC and relayed to Wikipedia.

Speaking of Wikipedia, let's see how much gold Saudi Arabia is voluntarily reporting in its "capital account." Wow! Only 322.9 tonnes? That's strange, because when I look back at the A/FOA archives I find that on "Mon Dec 15 1997 11:06" Allen estimated, "Saudi stockpile guesstimate 5,000 metric tonnes," to which ANOTHER proclaimed, "Mr. Allen's perfect article" and, "Mr. Allen, thank you for this thinking. It should be read by everyone."

Oh, and then on "12/1/99; 23:54:38MDT" ORO estimated, "I believe the current gold in hand would be about 6000 tons or so in Saudi hands. The Oil Royals paper gold position outstanding was probably in the 8000 ton range in the end of 98." To this, FOA wrote, "Oro understood this and posted it." (FOA (12/5/99; 17:38:01MDT - Msg ID:20347))

So does it make any sense that the paper-gold printer is practically ignoring his real gold account at $42/oz. while the real-goods producer/savers are intentionally underreporting theirs? I suppose it makes some sense in a really unbalanced "hypothetical" international monetary system that is about to come undone. What do you think?

In my post, The Shoeshine Boy, I wrote that I would revisit the context in which ANOTHER made the statement at the top of this post because it portends vast changes in the international monetary system directly in front of us. So I guess it is time to take a look at that context. Here is ANOTHER's entire first post archived on USAGold:

Date: Sun Oct 05 1997 21:29

Everyone knows where we have been. Let's see where we are going!

It was once said that "gold and oil can never flow in the same direction". If the current price of oil doesn't change soon we will no doubt run out of gold.

This line of thinking is very real in the world today but it is never discussed openly. You see oil flow is the key to gold flow. It is the movement of gold in the hidden background that has kept oil at these low prices. Not military might, not a strong US dollar, not political pressure, no it was real gold. In very large amounts. Oil is the only commodity in the world that was large enough for gold to hide in. No one could make the South African / Asian connection when the question was asked, "how could LBMA do so many gold deals and not impact the price". That's because oil is being partially used to pay for gold! We are going to find out that the price of gold, in terms of real money ( oil ) has gone thru the roof over these last few years. People wondered how the physical gold market could be "cornered" when its currency price wasn't rising and no shortages were showing up? The CBs were becoming the primary suppliers by replacing openly held gold with CB certificates. This action has helped keep gold flowing during a time that trading would have locked up.

(Gold has always been funny in that way. So many people worldwide think of it as money, it tends to dry up as the price rises.) Westerners should not be too upset with the CBs actions, they are buying you time!

So why has this played out this way? In the real world some people know that gold is real wealth no matter what currency price is put on it. Around the world it is traded in huge volumes that never show up on bank statements, govt. stats., or trading graph paper.

The Western governments needed to keep the price of gold down so it could flow where they needed it to flow. The key to free up gold was simple. The Western public will not hold an asset that going nowhere, at least in currency terms. ( if one can only see value in paper currency terms then one cannot see value at all ) The problem for the CBs was that the third world has kept the gold market "bought up" by working thru South Africa! To avoid a spiking oil price the CBs first freed up the public's gold thru the issuance of various types of "paper future gold". As that selling dried up they did the only thing they could, become primary suppliers! And here we are today. In the early 1990s oil went to $30++ for reasons we all know. What isn't known is that its price didn't drop that much. You see the trading medium changed. Oil went from $30++ to $19 + X amount of gold! Today it costs $19 + XXX amount of gold! Yes, gold has gone up and oil has stayed the same in most eyes.

Now all govts. don't get gold for oil, just a few. That's all it takes. For now! When everyone that has exchanged gold for paper finds out its real price, in oil terms they will try to get it back. The great scramble that "Big Trader" understood may be very, very close.

Now my friends you know where we are at and with a little thought, where we are going.

What I find most intriguing is this part:

In the early 1990s oil went to $30++ for reasons we all know. What isn't known is that its price didn't drop that much. You see the trading medium changed. Oil went from $30++ to $19 + X amount of gold! Today it costs $19 + XXX amount of gold! Yes, gold has gone up and oil has stayed the same in most eyes.

Like he said, all oil producers don't get gold, just the swing producer, Saudi Arabia. They control the flow of oil from all the other producers. If gold stops flowing and the Saudi's turn down the oil taps the price will rise. As long as gold is flowing, Saudi oil is flowing at $19/bbl and the rest of the producers must sell their oil for just the $19 cash.

So was there really a deal like this made? Of course there was! ANOTHER even gave us the math:

Date: Sat Oct 18 1997 21:04

Let me fill in the Xs.

First a reprint;
"You see the trading medium changed. Oil went from $30++ to $19 + X amount of gold!
Today it costs $19 + XXX amount of gold! "

If you owned a commodity in the ground that had to be sold for paper currency in order to realize value what would do? Yes, the oil in the ground may last another 50+ years but will the bonds and currencies of other governments last that long? One thing you don't do is buy gold outright, it would cause it to stop trading as a commodity and start trading as money! You learned that in the late 70s. Nor do you acquire "real gold money" in any fashion that would allow a comparison of price trends ( graphs ) ! There must be a way to convert the true wealth of oil into the outright wealth of gold. We know that oil is a consumed wealth of a momentary value that is lost in the heat of fire.

The stars blink and it is oil wealth no more!

It has become "the debt of nations " now owed to you. Gold on the other hand is not a commodity as many assume, as it is truly "the wealth of nations " meant to last thru the ages! A wise oil nation can strike a deal with the paper printers and in doing so come out on top. Go back a few years to the early 90s. Oil is very high, you offer to lower the US$ price in return for X amount of gold purchasing power. You don't care what the current commodity price of gold is, your future generations will keep it as real wealth to replace the oil that is lost. Before the future arrives gold will be, once again valued as money and can be truly counted on to appropriately represent all oil wealth!

The Deal:

We ( an oil state ) now value gold in trade far higher than currencies. We are willing to use gold as a partial payment for the future use of "all oil" and value it at $1,000 US. ( only a small amount of oil is in this deal ) And take a very small amount of gold out of circulation each month using its present commodity price.

If the world price can be maintained in the $300s it would be a small price for the west to pay for cheap oil and monetary stability.

The battle is now between CBs trying to keep gold in the $300s and the "others" buying it up. In effect the governments are selling gold in any form to "KEEP IT" being used as 'REAL MONEY" in oil deals! Some people know this, that is why they aren't trading it,, they are buying it.

Not all oil producers can take advantage of this deal as it is done "where noone can see". And, they know not what has happened for gold does not change in price! But I tell you, gold has been moved and it's price has changed in terms of oil! For the monthly amount to be taken off the market has changed from $10 in gold ( valued at $1,000 ) /per barrel to the current $30 in gold /per barrel still valued at $1,000! Much of this gold was in the form of deals in London to launder its movement. Because of some Asians, these deals are no longer being rolled over as paper!

Date: Tue Oct 07 1997 22:37

Ever notice how many important Middle Eastern people keep a residence in London. It's not because of the climate. The most powerful banks in the world today are the ones that trade oil and gold. It is in the "city" that the deals are done by people who understand "value"! Westerners should be happy that they do because the free flow of oil and gold has allowed this economic expansion to continue this past few years.

Understand that oil is still traded for a certain number of US$ but after the deal is done a certain amount of gold is also purchased "with the future flow of oil as collateral".

Date: Sat Mar 07 1998 13:19

A Noble Purpose, This Oil For Gold

When one considers the merits of a specialized world oil currency, the thought usually turns immediately to "send in the military and stop them". I must ask, why? If an oil currency is born before or out of the shambles of an financial meltdown, and it offers great benefit to all, again I ask, why stop it? Look at the merits of such a move:

In a very real "currency sense", oil will be devalued in terms of gold. As one makes a currency weaker by increasing the money units per ounce of gold. Oil will become very cheap in gold, as the amount of gold paid per barrel will fall dramatically as compared to today's ratio. There will be much more than enough gold worldwide to quantify a "world oil currency". To that end, the world paper "reserve currency" at use in that time, will continue to be traded for oil at an extremely low price relative to today. The only change will be the addition of a "unit of real value" added to each trade, a "world oil currency", gold! However, in terms of today's currencies, gold will be "upvalued" to perhaps $10,000 to $30,000 an ounce. So as not to rewrite what is already an excellent piece on this coming readjustment, I will repost part of Mr. Allen ( USA ) 's perfect article on the subject along with his requested changes per his :
Date: Mon Dec 15 1997 11:06
Allen ( USA ) ID#246224:

Last one on this topic until more ANOTHER posts. I'm not sure that it would be necessary to have that large a cabul in on the "offer" of oil for gold. Given the rather small market in gold in comparison to oil/currencies it would only take one or two well endowed oil states to pull this off. Here's why.

Let's say the Saudi's have been accumulating gold through the back door ( approx. 5,000 tonnes ) . They sell say 20 Mln Bbl oil a day. Close enough. At one ounce of gold per thousand Bbl oil that's 10,000 ounces of physical gold per day. That's a lot of physical gold.

The first few moments after the Saudi's proposal to trade oil for gold at a very steep discount of 1000 Bbl/oz ( approx. 1.5% of current US$ price ) there would be
roars of laughter. One fast thinker after another would think "Hey. I buy some gold at $300/oz, trade for oil to receive 1 Mln Bbl, then sell the 1 Mln Bbl for US$ 10 Mln. Net profit is

$10,000,000-$300,000=$9,700,000. Easy money.

Everyone at once turns to the gold market to buy, which promptly shuts down. Now no one is laughing. Because everyone realizes that gold is now worth at least $10,000 per ounce and no one is prepared for that revaluation. Whoever has gold now has 66.67 times the purchasing power in that stockpile. What appeared to be a stupid offer has now become a complete revaluation of all gold stockpiles vs all currencies.

Who has the gold?

( per corrections :Date: Mon Dec 15 1997 11:06 Allen ( USA ) ID#246224: )
Saudi stockpile guest-imate 5,000 metric tonnes = 5,000,000,000 GRAMS not ounces. Gold now at US$9.65 per gram revalued by multiple of 66.67 = US$643.37 per gram x 5 Bln grams = US$3.2 Tln.

Germany 2900 metric tonnes = 2.9 Bln grams, revalued to US$1.8 Tln.

USA 8,085 metric tonnes = 8.1 Bln grams, revalued to US$5.2 Tln.

Is this plausible??? How is it possible by making one little change in oil dealings could this ever happen? It is simply the very intelligent use of the scarcity of gold and the necessity of oil. It is the desire of one party, who is big enough to swamp the gold market, to make it the preferred vehicle for buying oil. In fact if not one ounce of gold is ever transacted for oil, but the offer is continued intact, then gold will be revalued simply by the possibility of trading. Those who are in a bad way in their currency situation can always get oil with their gold.

What would the impact of this revaluation of gold and currencies do? It would instantly shift economic and financial power into the hands of those who own large amounts of gold: CB's, Saudi's, Roths et al. It would mean that gold/oil would be THE CENTRAL POINTS OF ECONOMIC REFERENCE. It would mean that currencies would be devalued by a factor of 1000 in relationship to the new standard of gold ( as a proxy for oil wealth ) It would upset an awful lot of people. There would be no TARGET to shoot at or take over, however, because all other oil producers would immediately jump on this band wagon. Its a simple matter of what an interested party is willing to receive for their goods. Venezuela, with gold and oil reserves and production capacity, would be one of the wealthiest nations on earth. The world would be turned upside down geopolitically, wouldn't it. Literally "..the 'have-not's of the world will become the 'have's.."

Mr. Allen ( USA ) ,
Another thanks you for this thinking. It should be read by everyone with an interest in this area. It should also be studied by students wishing to learn of market dynamics. We also offer this piece as an addumnum to the above, also by the same author.
Date: Mon Dec 15 1997 10:49
Allen ( USA ) ( Quick Note to JTF re: 23:05 post - US$ oil float ) ID#246224:
US$ price of oil is floating. The "proposal" to offer oil for gold at say 1000 Bbl/oz is far below the present float price in US$. The gold market is SO SMALL that if the oil nation that made this proposal was pumping enough oil the gold market would be swamped by oil buyers who were looking to make a few ( !! ) US$ on the discrepancy in price. In effect this would revalue gold by inserting an entire different group of buyers into the gold market who have ALOT of money.

Why is it the oil nation would not just buy at market? Same as above. Their effect in the open market would basically shut down the market thereby frustrating their efforts to buy gold. Conversely, why would they then make the "proposal"? Because either they have enough gold to buy the world at the new price, there is a crisis in which they feel it is to their advantage to do this ( such as a US$ crisis ) or they might have a geopolitical rational. In the new valuation the US$ would still be intact. But its monopoly role would be altered. Its not that currencies would become worthless but that gold would become worth much more in relationship to paper currencies.

To answer the "military" question, asked at the begining of this article, I say:

The massive increase in the "reserve currency" price of gold would, no doubt be ushered into the USA house of congress as a godsend answer to Americas debt problems. With the "full production" of oil, now viewed as a sure thing, The world may well see the USA send the military into the Middle East just to ensure that this "deal" [Freegold] is not disturbed. After all, it is oil that will be massively devalued by gold.

Thank you

Did you catch what he said there? He said the US would not use its military to stop Freegold. Instead, it would use it to ENSURE Freegold once its benefits to even the US are recognized! This is such a simple concept yet so few of you seem able to grasp it.

And for those of you that keep asking me if I think the US gold is still there… yes, I do.

Here is something you need to understand about the US gold. The Fed does not own it. The US Treasury does. Following the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, the Treasury gained title to the entirety of the U.S. monetary gold (including $3.5 billion of which was currently being held by the Federal Reserve banks). From that point on, the Fed has received private issues of new-fangled gold certificates in $100, $1,000, $10,000 & $100,000 denominations -- not to be paid out and not for circulation.

So the Treasury took 175 million ounces of gold from the Fed, paid it in DOLLAR-DENOMINATED certificates for this gold at $20 per ounce, then revalued it to $35 per ounce. So if the Fed had even been able to redeem those certificates for gold in 1935, it would have only gotten back 100 million ounces. The windfall of 75 million ounces of gold ($2.6 billion), in this case, went entirely to the US Treasury and not the Fed.

The entire Treasury windfall was $2.8 billion and was the reason and the funding for the establishment of the ESF, the Exchange Stabilization Fund in 1934. So following the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 100 million ounces of gold were already automatically monetized. The rest of the US gold was eventually monetized through the Fed. The way this happens is the US Treasury issues fancy new non-negotiable, dollar-denominated gold certificates to the Fed and the Fed credits the Treasury account with dollars.

Today, all of the US gold has been "spent" in this way, but only at the price of $42.22 per ounce. That's 261,511,132 ounces of gold monetized at roughly $11 billion, money that was spent long ago.

So you see, the Fed cannot mark the US gold to market. It cannot even revalue the US gold. Only Congress can. And even if Congress DID revalue the gold, it would not change the Fed balance sheet by one penny. The Fed only holds dollar-denominated certificates worth $11 billion, payable in gold, but not really. It's kind of like Aramco in 1945 who owed the Saudis $3 million, payable in gold.

If Congress DID decide to mark the US stockpile of gold to market today it would find it had a new stream of revenue. At today's price of $1,328 per ounce, the US gold would be worth $347 billion. Subtract the $11 billion already on the Fed balance sheet and Congress could immediately ask the Fed to credit the US Treasury with $336 billion new dollars to be spent.

And then, if they let the value of the gold float, anytime the price rises, they could issue more fancy dollar-denominated gold certificates to the Fed and be credited with new dollars to spend. In fact, at a Freegold price of $55,000 per ounce, Congress could retire the entire US national debt without giving up a single ounce of gold, merely monetizing what it already has through the Federal Reserve. But what will really happen someday soon is the additional step of opening the vault and allowing that gold to FLOW again, but at a floating price. With this one move Congress wouldn't have to retire the entire national debt because credibility would be reestablished.

You see, the European gold reserves are far better, far more credible than the US gold reserve, simply because they engage in a two-way gold market, and have for decades. The US gold has been hoarded and locked away for more than 30 years, never deployed in case of emergency. The European CB's took a lot of flak for selling gold over the past two decades, but that action is precisely what makes them so much more credible (and valuable!) than the US gold hoard. Any trading partner knows full well that if all else fails, gold will be paid.

The price of gold today is unstable. Anyone with eyes can see that. Worse, it's rising. Which means the flow of physical gold in the quantities needed (at today's gold price) to lubricate global trade is drying up.

"Gold has always been funny in that way. So many people worldwide think of it as money, it tends to dry up as the price rises."

But the flow of physical gold WILL be reestablished. The world demands it. It doesn't care how high the price goes, only that the flow is guaranteed. Only the $IMFS seems to care about how high the price goes. And, apparently, that is because the $IMFS is the main printer of paper gold. Flow WILL be credibly and sustainably reestablished, which means paper gold WILL be discredited. Flow is sustainably and infinitely guaranteed at a floating, physical-only price. What that price is in today's world is anyone's guess because we haven't had such a market in centuries.

Oil will probably keep rising in price until something breaks. Then it is going to around 1,000 bbl per ounce of gold when the paper gold market fails to deliver the increased flow demand of physical gold at the paper market's low four-digit dollar price. And the oil producers will be VERY happy with this new, guaranteed flow. Hard to believe? Believe it! And if that doesn't scare the pants off somebody who has their whole life's savings fully invested in paper promises at today's valuations, nothing will.


"Sir, I feel the prudent allocation of wealth assets will see us thru most of this." - FOA

"I think that surviving the transition has to be the No. 1 priority and I also think owning some physical gold is a key part of a survival strategy." - Costata

"We have met the enemy and it is us. The best we can do now is just prepare ourselves, our family, and friends, at least that very small percentage that will listen." - Greyfox "It's the Debt, Stupid"

"Charles T. Munger
says you’re a jerk if you buy gold, even if it works. He wants you in equities so he can pluck you like an animal."
- A Friend

ORO (12/1/99; 23:54:38MDT - Msg ID:20038)
As I have worked it out, the purchase is done on paper. The accumulation is slow but steady. They obtain the gold for gold loans from themselves and buy it back. The rates of accumulation are not the same today as they were in the past. The 1995-1997 period was the main thrust where 8000 tons were committed and 4000 tons of their own gold were used to back that up (sums in total for the period). Trades were executed in the second and third quarter of every year. Prior to that, the accumulation was significantly slower, probably on the order of 12000 tons gross since 1987, going into 1994, a large minority of that in paper form. I believe the current gold in hand would be about 10000 tons 6000 or so in Saudi hands. The Oil Royals paper gold position outstanding was probably in the 8000 ton range in the end of 98.
I would need to expend a significantly larger effort to put all that together into better estimates with something beyond back of the envelope calculations. Right now, obtaining information before 1995 is quite difficult.
The main point is that in 98, as Asians dumped their gold, the Arab Oil countries were getting delivery.
Because of many Westerners dumping their gold holdings after a disappointing 20 years, right at the beginning of a new gold bull - right after the first spike, it is in the interest of all gold accumulators to use the opportunity of collecting more gold at a discount to do so, even if one needs to delay a long plan from executing.