presentations at worldwide mining events in the last few years, my favourite
topic is to counter the myth on gold to be a monetary instrument having
the reputation to be the ultimate investment of choice, particularly in
periods of a financial crisis and more specifically a hedge against the
public opinion could be easily tested since the beginning of the 2008/2009
financial crisis, followed by the euro zone crisis this year.
in the early stage of the financial crisis, on March 19, 2008, the gold price
showed a high of $ 1,030.80 against a low of the dollar of $ 1.58
against the euro, since then, during the course of the financial crisis
culminating into a credibility crisis, gold and the dollar followed a
expected to show a strong performance and limited volatility, and to protect
investors in periods of culminating financial and economic turbulence, fell
back 33% to a low of $ 692.50 on October 24, 2008, while during the same
5-month period the dollar was strengthening to $ 1.26, being preferred as a
safe haven to gold.
Lehman Brothers collapsed on September 15, 2008, it was striking to see that
in the course of 2009 when the financial crisis looked to be under control
supported by growing optimism on the 2010 outlook for the world economy, the
gold price did not fully recover only but reached an all time high of $
1,226.10 on December 26, 2009.
this period, which took almost a year, the dollar weakened to $ 1.51 against
the euro and it looked like the correlation with the dollar was restored. However,
then the Greek crisis started to take its toll, also affecting financial
markets of the other so-called pigs-countries, urging the European Union and
the IMF to create a $ 750 billion rescue plan to prevent a collapse of the
euro and threatening a break-up of the euro zone.
the euro crisis accelerating in concert with the euro loosing 17% since the
beginning of 2010, resulting in a low of $ 1.17 against the dollar on June 7,
the strong dollar didn’t hit the gold price but changed its course by
becoming a hedge against the weakening euro in stead.
with worldwide rescue packages to a total of US$ 2,000 billion in the last
quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009 to attack the financial and
economic crisis, this time the € 750 billion euro zone rescue plan
followed by Europe’s bank stress test, have to restore confidence in
the financial markets.
the euro having recovered to $ 1.30 preceding expected positive results from
the stress tests, confirmed by only seven lenders out of ninety-one
banks having failed the test, the threat of the euro zone to collapse
looks to be prevented just in time.
It shouldn’t be ignored however that the test applied only to assets
held on trading books and ignored banking books where the bulk of sovereign
exposure lies, including $ 2,000 billion of loans to be refinanced in 2012.
the meantime, the US economy is showing a stronger recovery than the euro
zone, as a result of which it looks like the Fed will tighten its monetary
policy earlier than the European Central Bank. This will have a positive
effect on the dollar.
A more positive scenario on economic growth implies that risk investment will
increase, resulting in equity markets to recover, which will be at the
expense of investing in treasury bonds and gold bullion.
for gold is its fading monetary position. Against Western central banks and
the IMF selling gold, only Russia and India have been buyers of importance in
2009/2010 to date. India has bought 200 tonnes off the market from the IMF
which offered a total 403 tonnes for sale. Against expectations, China held
off buying gold from the IMF.
by the euro crisis, I expect further sales from the IMF and ECB gold holdings
in an attempt to strengthen to save the euro and expect that the
deposited gold of the recently announced 382 tonnes BIS gold swap will not
flow back to the countries being involved in the swap.
recent intervenance of the IMF and BIS to sell and swap gold, respectively,
underpins my view that the pure monetary function of gold has become replaced
by an economic function as a bridge financing to bail out financial
institutions in countries facing serious economic troubles.
has already lost its monetary function since it doesn’t represent a
realistic option to replace paper money as a reserve currency due to the
value of the relatively small size of gold holdings compared with the value
of dollars circulating. Also, Asia, led by China, is neglecting gold as a
reserve currency and holds two-thirds of its monetary reserves totalling $
2,450 billion in dollars. China’s priority is to secure the
country’s economic growth by safeguarding the future supply of
In summary, it is wishful thinking to believe that the current monetary
position of gold justifies significant higher gold prices than the current $
one should look at the investment merits of gold from a fundamental point of
view based on demand and supply. Although retail demand has increased
substantially since last year, its represents approximately 20% of total
primary demand only, compared to approximately 50% related to jewellery
demand, which has shown a strong decline in 2009, particularly in India, the
world’s leading gold consumer.
misconception is that the strong increase of the gold price since 2001, when
it was quoted around $ 252, was fully driven by growing investment demand.
The truth is that the impact of dehedging over the last ten years had a
bigger impact With the hedge books of major producers almost closed
now, this will have a negative impact on demand, which has to be compensated
for by ongoing investment demand, particularly of ETFs.
the supply side it is a misconception to believe that consistently declining
gold production will support a higher gold price. Actually, since emerging
countries, led by China, are producing more gold than traditional countries
since last year, world gold production has reversed its modestly declining
it has also to be taken into account that the top-10 gold producers
representing approximately 45% of total world gold production hold an average
of 17 years of reserves related to their actual annual production. Reserves
are valued at an average of $ 800-850 per ounce, leaving a strong margin for
increasing the value of reserves, including upgrading of resources into
margins at a gold price of $ 400 having risen from $ 150 in 2004 to more than
$ 400 at today’s gold price of around $ 1,200, selective investment in
the gold equity markets and particularly in near term producers and advanced
developers, in my view, offer substantially higher investment rewards than
gold having appreciated 50% in value since the end of 2008, I would be happy
to see the current trading range between $ 1,180 – 1,220 to be
Gold Letter International
G. Pieterse has been an independent financial analyst and gold specialist for
more than 25 years. He is the chief-editor of Goldletter International, the only
gold investment market letter in English in Europe focusing on emerging gold
regions in the world, as well as reports on individually featured companies
and special reports on other metals, including uranium. You can receive Gold
Letter International’s reports for free by clicking on the