BRICs in the Golden Power Struggle

As near as we can tell, gold is fairly priced. It will buy about as much as it would have bought 500 years ago…or 2,000 years ago, for that matter. That’s what’s nice about it. It doesn’t make you any money, but it doesn’t lose you any money either.

Of course, the price of gold can still vary substantially. In the last bull market in gold – from the trough in ’67 to the peak in ’80 – gold rose 1550%. That was a good time sell. The next two decades saw the price sawed in half…and then sawed in half again.

Now it is going up again. Most likely, it is merely adjusting to the inflation of the previous three decades. Or perhaps it is anticipating more inflation ahead.

As to the inflation ahead, we’re not so sure. There’s probably a long, dark, cold period of depression to go through before we get to the heat of hyperinflation. But then…who knows? As the challenges we’ve mentioned hint, anything could happen.

Here at The Daily Reckoning we are neither bullish nor bearish on gold. We don’t know whether it will go up or down. But as to our confidence in human beings, we have no doubt. In our opinion, the world’s most popular economists – notably Ben Bernanke and Paul Krugman – would probably make fine bartenders. They are good at providing ‘liquidity,’ and not much more. They have no idea what is happening in the world of finance…and their idea of what to do about it will almost surely make things worse. Meanwhile, we feel we can count on Congress and the president too. The nation may already have a net worth of MINUS $70 trillion (according to John Williams of ShadowStats)…but they will surely keep spending until the nation goes broke.

Typically, power begets gold…then gold begets power…and then both gold and power are begotten by someone else. The world never stands still, even for someone with a million dollars’ worth of Krugerrands in his home safe.

The BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India and China – are begetting power. Their economies are growing much faster than the developed, mature economies of the west. They grew by selling products – often in dollars. This left them with dollars as financial reserves. They have little gold.

For a very long time, dollars were ‘as good as gold’ – or almost. But now the power equations need to be reworked. The BRICs are gaining power…but find themselves still hostage to America’s paper money. Inevitably, they’re going to follow India’s recent example…as well as the example of practically every nation to gain power throughout history; they’re going to add to their supplies of gold.

A rising power acquires gold. A fading gives it up. The US has more than 8,000 tonnes of gold…nearly 80% of its reserves. Meanwhile, China – America’s most likely rival for superpower status – has only 600 tonnes of gold. It keeps less than 1% of its reserves in the yellow metal. Put all the BRICs together and you get 1,500 tonnes, less than a quarter of the US hoard. And the BRICs have 10 times as many people.

Official purchases of gold by central banks have been negative for many years. They still are. In the 2nd and 3rd quarters central banks sold more than they bought. Imagine if they suddenly went positive! If the BRICs wanted to bring their reserves up to just half the level of the US, they’d have to buy 2,500 tonnes.

Until tomorrow,

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning