Gold, Financial War & The Fed’s Dangerous Exit Strategy

With the United States celebrating Independence Day, oil still trading over $100 a barrel, and continued uncertainty in the Middle-East, today King World News interviewed the director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Dr. Benn Steil warned KWN about the Fed’s exit strategy, and also spoke about China’s large hoard of U.S. dollars, and their massive accumulation of gold.

Eric King: “What we are looking at right now is a financial war between the U.S. and China.”

Dr. Steil: “That’s right. In the 1940s the U.S. was the world’s largest international creditor, and Britain was the world’s largest international debtor. Today, China is the world’s largest international creditor, and of course the United States is the world’s largest international debtor.

And it’s fascinating to see that the United States today takes the same position in terms of identifying the flaws in the global monetary architecture that Keynes and the British took in the 1940s. For example, former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, in 2010, proposed imposing caps on persistent current account surpluses. Of course that was aimed at disciplining Chinese economic behavior….

“This was exactly the sort of position that Britain was taking in the 1940s, Harry Dexter White and the FDR administration condemned. So where you stand depends on where you sit at the time.”

Eric King: “This is also a quote (from Dr. Steil) ‘At present, the United States has no need to accommodate calls for it to sacrifice its exorbitant privilege (having the world’s reserve currency) to some vague vision of the global good. It will only waver when the market initiates a clear shift toward alternatives.” What about that (Dr. Steil)?”

Dr. Steil: “Well, in the 1940s there was a deal to be done between the United States and Britain. It was a harsh deal, and it was an imbalanced deal as I explained, but nonetheless it was a deal to be done. Britain needed financing to get through the war, and the Americans needed British acquiescence to make the dollar the global unit of account.

But the situation with China today is not the same, and let me give you just one little anecdote to illustrate this: In 1956, the Eisenhower administration forced the British out of (the) Suez (Canal) by threatening to withhold emergency IMF support.

Now, the United States, at the time, could afford to provoke a sterling crisis at no cost to itself because in 1956 U.S. holdings of British securities amounted to only one dollar per U.S. resident. Now, compare that to today, where Chinese holdings of U.S. securities amount to over (a remarkable) $1,000 per Chinese resident.

So China cannot afford to provoke a dollar crisis today because it would be hurting itself at least as much as it would be hurting the United States. And that’s why there is really not, in my view, a deal to be done right now between the United States and China to remake the global international architecture … As you quoted, China has a vast stash of dollar-denominated assets, and it doesn’t want to do anything that would undermine the global purchasing power of this hoard. So they are in quite a bind.”


Gold & A Global Financial System In Complete Turmoil

On the heels of continued chaos in global markets, today acclaimed money manager Stephen Leeb spoke with King World News about the gold and silver smash and what investors should expect going forward. Leeb also talked with KWN about one country in Europe that is getting very serious about its gold.

Leeb: “Germany, as we know, is repatriating their gold from the United States. Everybody has talked about that — ‘Why is it taking years to get a few hundred tons back to Germany (from the United States)?’ But guess who else they are repatriating their gold from? France.

Now, the German comment is, ‘Well, there’s no need to store it in France because we’re all one currency now.’ Really? And you expect to remain one currency for the next 10 or 20 years? And if you’re just one currency, why not leave it in France?

Germany is getting very serious about their gold….

“So they are the one Western exception. The rest of the gold is headed East big time … The reason Germany entered my head is because all of the sudden you see Germany, Toronto, London, all vying to be hubs for yuan trading. That’s trading in Chinese currency.

All of the sudden the yuan is on the verge of becoming a reserve currency. If you think that trend is going to stop any time soon, forget it. But Germany continues to go it alone. They continue to be the one European country after gold. They want to be the hub of yuan trading. So you can see how the world is developing, Eric.”

Leeb also added: “This was inevitable that you would have a big decline in gold. Ultimately the West, and in particular the United States, is desperate to keep the dollar at the forefront, to keep the dollar as the reserve currency.


Is this the Rothschild Moment for Gold?`

We’ve all been watching the selloff in the global gold market. Armies of chicken littles are in a frenzy due to suggestions that the Fed may be ending its quantitative easing, so I thought this is a good time to check in with my friend Henry Smyth of Granville Cooper Asset Management Ltd. (GCAM). Henry is a former Coutts & Co. banker and a very astute observer of the global financial markets. We spoke last week in New York. — Chris

RCW: Henry, the gold market has been taking a beating in the past few months. What do you see as the drivers of the gold market today?

HS: Since $1525 support broke gold has been in the throes of stop loss selling. Gold is now over 2% below its 200 day moving average. Physical supply is extremely tight. The precious metals analysts where I trade in Zurich have very good contacts among the refiners. They tell me the order backlog is over four weeks now versus four days in a normal market. Same for Shanghai and Mumbai where you see sharply increasing demand as US Dollar gold prices fall and gold premiums rise. Here in the United States the US Mint cannot keep up with demand for gold and silver eagles.

RCW: So is this correction a normal reaction to the Fed? Or has the fact of QE magnified the volatility of gold (and everything else)?

HS: The shorts in the market are running out of short fuel. The decline in gold has been going on since late 2011 and is very long in the tooth. Sentiment against gold is virtually 100% right now among Western gold analysts. This is a Rothschild moment.

RCW: This is a reference to the famous dictum by Baron Rothschild: “Buy when there’s blood on the street?”

HS: It is. There seems to be an expectation that the end of QE will be bullish for the Dollar and therefore bearish for gold. My view is the end of QE will be bearish for all those asset classes which require QE for life support and/or do not do well in a rising interest rate environment. That would include the bulk of US equity and fixed income markets.

RCW: So then I take it you currently are a buyer of gold?

HS: Gold is in a primary uptrend and has been since 2001. The long gold strategy of the Granville Cooper Gold Fund II Ltd. began in 2003. We went through a correction in 2004-5 and another in 2008-09. The current correction is longer in duration but similar in percentage change to the previous corrections. Our investment mandate is long term outperformance against the US Dollar gold price. We use corrections to build positions for the resumption of the primary trend. We have buy stops out there now.

RCW: So given the degree of government manipulation of the financial markets, how do you get a clear view of the gold market?

HS: Gold began its uptrend prior to the onset of the first QE. Fed policy can accelerate or retard, but not alter, the primary uptrend in gold. Gold is a global asset class but is viewed in a very provincial way in the United States. We are seeing a tectonic shift in global asset allocation as gold moves from West to East. This is far more significant than the West appreciates. In my view, this shift is it is akin to the movement of gold from Europe to the US following the 1933 devaluation of the dollar via gold by the Roosevelt administration and the promulgation of the Nuremburg Laws in Germany in 1935.

RCW: That is a pretty bold statement. The real driver of wealth migration from Europe to the US was two world wars. How do you see China leveraging their accumulation of gold to build long-term advantage for the Chinese economy?

HS: It appears that China has since the turn of the century had a state policy of encouraging gold ownership by its citizens. Given this policy and the evolution of their bilateral trading and clearing agreements and systems, it is reasonable to assume the Chinese have global ambitions for their currency, and that their gold holdings will be a significant support to the international acceptance of that currency. A reserve currency is the ultimate projection of state power. I think the Chinese get that.

RCW: Thanks Henry. Hopefully somebody in Washington will take heed of your analysis.