There are idiots. There are morons. Then there are gold bugs. It would be a full time job fighting their insanity, and doing so is like kicking a manure pile: it raises a stink and a cloud of flies. But sometimes it just has to be done.
Recently it was reported that Russia has been buying gold at a furious rate. Gold now represents almost 11 percent of the country’s reserves.
The gold bugs buzzed in glee. To them, it represented another nail in the coffin of the doomed dollar, and Putin was an economic genius making a decisive move in his war against the US. And of course, Zero Hedge peddled this line (by posting an article by a bug site):
Russia’s central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina told the lower house of parliament about the significant Russian gold purchases. She is an economist, head of the Central Bank of Russia and was Vladimir Putin’s economic adviser between May 2012 to June 2013.
This announcement is unusual and to our knowledge has not happened before. The announcement by the Russian central bank governor was likely coordinated with Putin and the Kremlin and designed to signal how Russia views their gold reserves as a potential geopolitical and indeed financial and currency war weapon.
(The comments are priceless.)
Reserve Currencies In History – Dollar’s Demise Cometh
Central banks continue to be buyers of gold at these attractive price levels. As sanctions, economic war and currency wars intensify we expect Russian and Russian ally buying of gold reserves and selling of dollars to intensify. Aggressive buying of gold and particularly silver by Russia will likely lead to defaults on the COMEX gold and silver futures exchanges and potentially an international monetary crisis.
See important guide to Currency Wars here Currency Wars: Bye, Bye Petrodollar – Buy, Buy Gold
The truth, of course, is much different. This is actually another symptom of Russian economic desperation, rather than a diabolically brilliant blow against the dollar:
Russia’s central bank has been forced to step up its gold buying this year to absorb domestic production that Western sanctions are making it hard for miners to sell abroad, and to boost liquidity in its foreign reserves, sources said.
Most Russian gold mine production is sold to domestic commercial banks, such as Sberbank or VTB, which can then sell the metal on to either the central bank or to foreign banks.
The central bank has therefore had no choice but take domestic mine production that cannot be sold to foreign banks, two sources said, and has bought most of the metal that commercial banks had available.
. . . .
While the sanctions do not expressly prohibit them from buying gold, Western banks are cautious over any business done with their Russian counterparts, sources said.
What’s more, the Russian CB can pay for the domestically-produced gold with rubles. It’s the only way it can really bolster reserves without selling rubles for dollars or euros.
Thus, rather than a blow against sanctions, it is yet another action forced on the Russians by them.
It’s also interesting to note that gold hasn’t been a great investment for the Russians. Gold purchase data is available on a quarterly basis. Assuming that Russia purchased gold in a quarter at the average price during those three months, based on IMF data and the current spot price of gold, I estimate that Russia has lost well over $1 billion on the gold purchased since 2009.
Speaking of Russia’s reserves, this piece by Anders Aslund is well worth reading. When he breaks down the numbers, Russia’s vaunted reserves look much less impressive. In particular, Anders points out that the National Wealth Fund and the Reserve Fund are not under control of the Central Bank, and committed to supporting pensions and the federal budget. Moreover, sharks like Sechin are already laying claim to big pieces of it. Further, Russia’s large external corporate debt cannot be refinanced due to sanctions, and payment commitments over the near to medium term will rapidly draw down the remaining reserves, and the current account surplus will fall substantially due to lower oil prices.
One last gold item. ISIS are gold bugs. They have announced the creation of a currency, based on circulating gold, silver, and copper coins. They really believe the gold bug stuff. They are aficionados of ZH and currency warrior James Rickards (whose mug pops up everywhere, including on mainstream media websites like WaPo, in advertisements for his buy gold, buy a bunker, for the end is nigh book).
The gold and silver purchases are strange enough, he said. “But what is striking is how elements of the organization have seized power transmission cables and other copper components,” Obeidi said. The fighters are burning the insulation off the cables and harvesting the copper [to fashion into coins], he said.
So they’ll have metallic coins but no electricity. Which may be OK with them, given how much they want to live a 7th century lifestyle.
This is great news. If a shambolic Iraqi military can’t destroy the Islamic State, economic mismanagement based on wacko gold bug theories might achieve that result instead. I suggest that the CIA carry out a mission to translate Rickards’ Currency Wars into Arabic, and clandestinely distribute it in ISIS-controlled lands. A very cheap, but very effective, form of subversion.