THERE JUST ISN’T ENOUGH GOLD

by Egon von Greyerz, Gold Switzerland:

There are lies damned lies and Central Bank Gold statistics. Total official global gold holdings are reported to be 33,000 tonnes. That is 19% of all the gold ever produced in the world. But how can anyone ever believe any of these figures. Because no central bank ever has a public audit of all its gold holdings. Since the gold belongs to the people, they have the right to know if the gold actually exists, especially since the gold reserves are backing the currency.

WHY IS THE US GOLD NOT AUDITED?

But no, the truth about these gold reserves are veiled in total secrecy. And why we may ask. Why are the people as well as the creditors of a country not told the true financial position? What do these central banks have to hide? Let’s take the US. The US is allegedly holding 8,100 tonnes of gold, stored in Fort Knox, Denver and New York. The last official audit was 64 years ago in 1953 when Eisenhower was president. Since then, the US Government claims that the US gold has been audited over a period from 1974 to 2008. But no proper figures have ever been published.

FORT KNOX – WHERE IS THE GOLD?

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The first question to ask is of course how an audit can ever take 34 years!!!! Only a government organisation can take 1/3 of a century to audit their assets. I know of no company in the world that can take 34 years to report their assets to the shareholders. The stakeholders of the US gold are the US people and they certainly have the right to know if the country really holds $332 billion worth of gold. Steve Mnuchin, the US Treasury Secretary, spent an afternoon in Fort Knox last week. After having seen a few percent of the total gold held there, he confirmed that it was SAFE! Well that’s good to know but he obviously hasn’t got a clue how much is there.

Secondly, an audit carried out over 34 years cannot possibly be accurate. The movement in gold over that period would totally nullify the accuracy of the audit.

Thirdly an audit should be carried out by independent auditors. This audit was done by a Government Committee for Gold and the Treasury. The exact method of the audit has not been revealed but according to some sources, the methods were highly suspect.

Fourthly and just as relevant is the total balance sheet position of the US gold holdings. The physical gold is only one part. Central banks practice gold lending or leasing on a major scale. Thus, the US could lease its gold to another bank against a fee. Lending can take place without the physical position of the gold changing. Other banks accept to borrow gold from the Fed without having it in their possession. There can also be swaps, forward sales and other derivative transactions that reduce the holding.

GERMAN STILL HOLDS 50% OF ITS GOLD ABROAD

Germany used to store 70% of its gold abroad with the majority in the US. In 2013, they were under public pressure to repatriate the gold and declared that 674 tonnes would be repatriated from the US and France. They only received 5 tonnes in the first year because there was no gold available. It had probably been lent on to someone else. Finally, they just stated that the 674 tonnes are now in Germany. This means that around 50% of the German gold or 1,665 tonnes is still held abroad. The obvious question is of course why not hold it all in Germany. The official reason is risk spread and trading. It is dubious if the US or the UK are safer places than Germany. Financially Germany is clearly safer. All central banks trade part of their gold. To lease gold to someone, it doesn’t have to be held in New York or London. The leasing could easily be done from Germany.

Possibly, the 1,665 tonnes held abroad have been covertly sold or leased to a bullion bank which has sold it on to China. And China of course always takes delivery. They wouldn’t be so stupid to keep a major part of their gold in the US or London. If the German gold has been leased and shipped to China, all the German government has is an IOU from a bullion bank. So instead of physical gold they have a piece of paper.

SILK ROAD NATIONS ARE BUYING ALL THE GOLD

The same could easily be the case with the US gold or other central bank gold. With the massive buying we have seen from Silk Road countries in the last 10 years, it would not be surprising that a major part of the gold has come from Western Central banks. Since 2005, four Silk Road countries have bought 28,000 tonnes of gold.

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Many market observers estimate that official gold holdings could be as little as half of the reported figures. In my view, that is not unrealistic. As the chart above shows, there has been a major shift of gold from West to East. Four Silk Road countries have absorbed more than the annual gold production for the last 10 years. An important part of the sales to the East will most certainly come from Western Central bank holdings.

UK A MAJOR GOLD EXPORTER

Switzerland publishes the monthly imports and exports of gold. These give a good indication of global gold trading since Switzerland refines up to 70% of the gold bars in the world. The chart below shows the Swiss gold imports from July. Of 152 tonnes imported, 80 tonnes came from the UK. The UK is certainly not known as a gold producer. The gold that the Swiss refiners get from the UK are 400 ounce (12kg) bars, most probably sold by central banks. The bars are broken down to 1 kilo bars and then shipped to China and India. These bars could either have been sold covertly by central banks or leased by them to the LMBA banks in London. In the past, the bars leased by central banks would have stayed in London.

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