Revaluation of gold, and a return to a gold standard, is the only way that hyperinflation can be avoided while large numbers of paper currency units are released into the economy. This is because most of the rise in prices can be filtered into gold. As the asset value of gold rises, it will soak up excess dollars, euros, pounds, etc., while the appearance of an increased number of currency units will stimulate investor psychology; and lending and economic output will increase all over the world. Ben Bernanke and the other members of the FOMC Committee must know this, because it is basic economics.
It is to be regretted that more of Professor Conrad's admirable paper cannot be quoted here because of lack of space. To summarize: Bernanke is prepared to throw the issuers of paper gold at the Comex to the wolves, as they have become useless, even a nuisance, by now. Besides, the wolves must be appeased lest they devour whatever remains of the U.S. banking and insurance system.
My own position is somewhat different from Professor Conrad's. In my view we are facing a world-wide elemental grass-root movement: the flight into physical gold ? witness the backwardation in gold. It is irresistible, and will ultimately overtake all other market forces. It will overwhelm official resistance.
An intriguing case can be made, as is attempted by Conrad, that Bernanke is intelligent enough to realize all this thinking that he can harness, if not hijack, the grass-root movement for his own purposes. This is a wee-bit more intelligence than I can give credit for to the Chairman, who is a former academic himself. I find the thought surrealistic that Bernanke wants to use gold as the safety-valve through which he can release steam from an overheating deflation one day, and from an overheating inflation the next.
Be that as it may, the Brave New World of irredeemable currency sans the paper gold factory at Comex will be an entirely different world from what we have been used to for the past thirty-six years. I highlight the differences as I see them. This should be helpful in the long run, even if this backwardation is temporary and gold futures trading will return to normal, since permanent backwardation is ultimately unavoidable.
Item 1: Barrick and other gold producers that still have an open hedge book will go bankrupt.
Item 2: Other gold miners will, one after another, stop selling gold altogether, and go into hibernation.
Item 3: Junior gold mines will put off starting production indefinitely. They will consider their gold ore reserves in the ground a safer store of value than paper money in an insolvent bank.
Item 4: The closing of the gold window at the Comex will furnish an excuse for other issuers of paper gold including the bullion banks to declare bankruptcy fraudulently.
Item 5: GLD and other joint depositories of gold will be under enormous pressure to default and let the owners of the ETF shares hold the bag. Let them sue for the gold. They won't get it: their contracts give them no right to physical gold. They will get small change, in paper. The principals will cut up the gold pie among themselves. No crumbs will trickle down to shareholders.
Item 6: Even allocated and segregated metal account gold is not safe. The temptation on the account providers to default will be irresistible. They are not going to release the gold until expressly ordered by the courts, and will make sure that no gold will be left by then.
Item 7: Central banks forfeit their gold under leases due to backwardation, causing an uproar of citizens whose patrimony was sequestered and dissipated in such an ignominious manner.
Item 8: The only market for gold will be the fragmented black markets in various countries each charging a price whatever the traffic can bear. All legal protection of the ownership of and trade in gold will be suspended. The Dark Age will descend on the trading world, just as it did when the Roman Empire collapsed.
Our present experiment with irredeemable currency can last only as long as it is able to support futures markets in gold. The declining gold basis is the hour glass: when it runs out and the last grain of sand drops, gold fever will bleed the futures markets of cash gold, and the days of the regime of irredeemable currency are numbered.
Previous episodes of experimentation lasted no more than 18 years, or half as long as the present one which has taken 36 years so far, a world record. Of course, none of the earlier episodes were supported by futures markets. Forewarned, forearmed. Get ready and move closer to the doors. When the curtain falls on the last contango in Washington, there will be panic and some people may get trampled to death at the exit.
Dear Mish, lower your gun. The topic of gold backwardation is not for you.
Monetary versus Non-monetary Commodities, April 25, 2006
The Last Contango in Washington, June 30, 2006
Red Alert: Gold Backwardation!!! December 4, 2008
Has the Curtain Fallen on the Last Contango in Washington? December 8, 2008