Beauty and the Beast? Gisele vs. Bette

“The current surge in gold prices doesn’t reflect only dollar weakness. Confidence in all official currencies is evaporating fast — and with today’s current crop of central bankers in charge, is it any surprise?”

WITH ALL EYES NOW SQUINTING at the fast-vanishing U.S. currency, it was only ever a question of “when” — not “if” — the bold and the beautiful would start rejecting the misshapen dollar.

The imperial greenback is just sooooo 20th century, darling!

“We don’t know what will happen to the dollar,” as Patricia Bundchen, sister and manager of Gisele, the statuesque and shapely Brazilian supermodel, puts it. “Contracts starting now are more attractive in euros.”

Not so fast, counters her agent at IMG Models in New York. “ Gisele does have contracts in dollars, [but] when she works in Europe, she gets paid in euros. When she works in the U.S., she gets paid in dollars…when she works in Brazil, she gets paid in reals.”

Whatever hair-pulling and hissing is going on among her people behind the catwalk, the former squeeze of Leonardo DiCaprio has now asked for euros, not dollars, in payment for promoting Dolce & Gabbana’s new perfume, The One.

Being based in Legnano, Italy, D&G no doubt had plenty of euros on hand. But Procter & Gamble? According to Veja — Brazil’s best-selling weekly magazine — Gisele has now demanded euros instead of dollars in her new contract to promote P&G’s Pantene shampoos and conditioners.

And who can blame her? In the year up to June, Gisele made an income worth $30 million to defend. If she kept that sum in dollars, then this Beauty would have already lost 8.3% of her money — in four short months — to the lumbering Beast…


Rejecting the dollar isn’t a new gambit for headline-hungry celebrities, of course.

The last time the U.S. dollar sank beneath the weight of low-yielding Treasury bonds, soaring oil prices and a looming recession, Bette Midler — the comedienne and singer — famously demanded that her $600,000 fee for a European tour in 1978 be paid in South African gold coins.

Smart move! Eighteen months later, that little mountain of Krugerrands would have been worth $2.1 million. But did Ms. Midler show more brains…if not beauty…than today’s ex-dollar superstar?

Gisele Bundchen actually seems keen to quit the U.S. altogether. (Maybe The Enquirer should tell her current beau, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots…) She cut the asking price of her New York penthouse just last weekend. Now her West Village apartment, with views of the Hudson thrown in for free, is on the market for $9.2 million — down from $10.9 million previously — according to the New York Post.

“In Tribeca,” the rag goes on, “Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova has discounted her alluring 5,000-square-foot penthouse from $11 million to $9.9 million.”

Are the beautiful people turning bearish en masse on both the greenback and U.S. real estate? They might want to show the brains of Bette Midler…instead of the tanned midriff of Gisele…if so.


Since the dollar reached parity with the euro, for instance, exactly five years ago this week, gold priced in euros has risen by nearly 70%.

Yes, that pales next to the gold price in dollars…now more than 140% higher from this time in 2002.

And yes, “Gold is the most reliable performer as a hedge against dollar movements,” as Rhona O’Connell found in a research report for the World Gold Council last month. She compared the performance of various commodities — everything from zinc, cattle, heating oil and palladium to sugar — with the dollar’s changing fortunes on the currency market.

O’Connell’s yardstick for the U.S. dollar was an index of the world’s next five most important currencies. Gold bullion mirrored the changes in this dollar index more closely than any other physical commodity from January 2005-July 2007.

But gold is delivering much more than simply a dollar hedge. Given the political and economic barriers to raising interest rates anywhere in the world right now, you might wonder if it’s going to keep on giving, too.

Gold, so far in November, has also broken out against a whole series of other major currencies besides the U.S. dollar. Gold priced in euros just broke the top of May 2006, equal to 562 euros per ounce. The Japanese yen is trading at a 23-year low in terms of bullion. The Australian dollar — caught between being a “commodity currency” and a debt-fuelled Anglo-Saxon basket case — has just sunk to new record lows against gold.

And for British investors, gold has never been so valuable…


What to make of it? Here at BullionVault, we’ve been trying to figure out just what investors buying gold today can expect it to do for them.

Gold itself makes no promises, remember. Paying no yield or interest — and with little-to-no industrial usage, compared with silver or platinum — gold really doesn’t have very much to recommend it. Not besides the verdict of history.

The ultimate store of value and wealth for more than 3,000 years, gold is now drawing in a flood of investment cash from private individuals across the world. The proof? It’s moving fast against ALL of the world’s major currencies, not just the dollar.


We blame central bankers. And government wonks. And those investment banks that created a flood of “near money” assets at a record clip when they spied the mark of low-income homebuyers with no hope of ever repaying a mortgage.

“[Bank of England governor] Mervyn King’s effective guarantee of the liabilities of the British banking system is much more significant than declining South African gold production,” as John Hathaway of Tocqueville Asset Management puts it.

We’d add the Bernanke put, too…plus the Bank of Japan’s zero-rate madness…the Swiss National Bank’s sub-3% rates…and the eurozone’s basic political fault lines.

If you want to join Gisele, then buy euros. Thrown in for free, you’ll get the yawning gaps between Germany’s economy and the overspent, over-indebted economies of Italy, Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal.

If you don’t trust central bankers or government paper, on the other hand, then make like Bette Midler. Just don’t pay the extortionary dealing charges and insurance fees that buying a pile of Krugerrands will cost you.

Adrian Ash

November 14, 2007