BIS

Bank For International Settlements (BIS): Global Economy Situation Similar To Pre-2008 Crash Era

At the end of last week I left readers with that post about individuals credited with publicly predicting the 2008 global economic crisis.

Yesterday, I learned that some organizations correctly forecast the carnage. In particular, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Phillip Inman reported on The Guardian (UK) website Sunday:

The BIS was one of the few organisations to warn during 2006 and 2007 about the unstable levels of bank lending on risky assets such as the US subprime mortgages that eventually led to the Lehman Brothers crash and the financial crisis.

Curious to know what the “central bankers’ bank” thinks about the state of the global economy these days? Inman revealed:

Investors are ignoring warning signs that financial markets could be overheating and consumer debts are rising to unsustainable levels, the global body for central banks has warned in its quarterly financial health check.

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) said the situation in the global economy was similar to the pre-2008 crash era when investors, seeking high returns, borrowed heavily to invest in risky assets, despite moves by central banks to tighten access to credit.

The BIS, known as the central bankers’ bank, said attempts by the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England to choke off risky behaviour by raising interest rates had failed so far and unstable financial bubbles were continuing to grow.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

I’m not going to steal The Guardian’s thunder here, so head on over to the article on their website for the full story.

By the way, Inman noted the following about the BIS chief economist who was around during those alarms sounded in 2006 and 2007:

William White, who now chairs the OECD’s review committee, warned last year that global debt levels had escalated to unstable levels largely in response to almost zero interest rates to create a situation that was “worse than 2007”.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Former BIS Chief Economist William White: ‘Situation Is Worse Than It Was In 2007’

For over a decade now, I’ve read an enormous amount of material concerning developments in the global economy/larger financial system. Particularly as it pertains to the health of that system. And not too many articles have grabbed my attention during that time like the one penned by The Telegraph’s (UK) international business editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard on their website last week. From his January 19 article:

The global financial system has become dangerously unstable and faces an avalanche of bankruptcies that will test social and political stability, a leading monetary theorist has warned.

“The situation is worse than it was in 2007. Our macroeconomic ammunition to fight downturns is essentially all used up,” said William White, the Swiss-based chairman of the OECD’s review committee and former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

“Debts have continued to build up over the last eight years and they have reached such levels in every part of the world that they have become a potent cause for mischief,” he said…

“The only question is whether we are able to look reality in the eye and face what is coming in an orderly fashion, or whether it will be disorderly”

The European banking system may have to be recapitalized on a scale yet unimagined, and new “bail-in” rules mean that any deposit holder above the guarantee of €100,000 will have to help pay for it.

The warnings have special resonance since Mr White was one of the very few voices in the central banking fraternity who stated loudly and clearly between 2005 and 2008 that Western finance was riding for a fall, and that the global economy was susceptible to a violent crisis…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

In case some readers didn’t know, the Bank of International Settlements, or BIS, is basically the bank of central banks. And White was their chief economist.

He also commented on the Federal Reserve’s interest rate quagmire. From the piece:

Mr White said the Fed is now in a horrible quandary as it tries to extract itself from QE and right the ship again. “It is a debt trap. Things are so bad that there is no right answer. If they raise rates it’ll be nasty. If they don’t raise rates, it just makes matters worse,” he said…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Crash prophet” Peter Schiff has been harping on the rate trap for some time now.

It’s one thing when someone like Schiff points out fissures in the system. And it’s another when an “insider” like William White sounds the alarm.

You can read Evans-Pritchard’s disturbing article in its entirety here on The Telegraph website.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Jim Rickards Suspects China Behind Gold Price Manipulation As It Buys Metal To Hedge Against Dollar Devaluation

Euro Pacific Capital CEO and Global Strategist Peter Schiff just got done interviewing Jim Rickards, an American lawyer, economist, investment banker, and best-selling author. Rickards, who released The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System, this spring, spoke with Schiff about the global gold markets. What he had to say about China and its steady accumulation of physical gold (reserves now totaling close to 4,000 tons, Rickards speculates) was extremely interesting. Some might say shocking. From the exchange:

Now there’s been a lot of speculation the reason they’re doing this is they want to launch a gold-backed yuan currency to defeat the dollar. That’s not going to happen. That’s not even close. The reason is that the yuan’s not ready to be a reserve currency because they don’t have investable assets. There’s no rule of law. There’s no mature bond market in China. But what they are doing, is creating a very simple hedge position… So you’ve got $4 trillion of paper reserves, most of them U.S. dollars. You can’t dump them. If you’re going to try and sell a fraction… the Treasury market’s big- it’s not that big. If they try and do something more aggressive, the President of the United States can actually stop them just by freezing their accounts. So what you do is buy up a pile of gold. So now, the Chinese want a stable dollar. They would love a stable dollar. But if the U.S. tries to devalue the dollar, tries to cheapen the dollar through inflation- remember, every 10 percent of dollar inflation is a $300 billion wealth transfer from China to the United States. So if you cheapen the dollar with inflation, they lose money on the paper, but they make money on the gold. So they’re building a hedge position. They’re not done yet.

I’ve heard it claimed before that China is accumulating gold to back the renminbi. But Rickards says this isn’t the case. Even more eye-opening than the dollar hedge theory was something he said later on in the interview:

The gold manipulation, by the way, is so blatant at this point, if I were the manipulator I’d be embarrassed… The question is, who’s doing it? And people like to point a finger at the Fed and maybe through the BIS- they have a hand in it. But my number one suspect is China for the reason you mentioned, Peter. If you’re out to buy 3,000 tons, you don’t want the price to be high yet. Maybe later you do. But for now you want the price to be low.


“Interview: Jim Rickards & Peter Schiff Discuss Global Gold Markets [Full Discussion]”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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BIS: Global Debt Markets Grow To Estimated $100 Trillion In 2013, Up From $70 Trillion In 2007

Last night, I read about global debt markets hitting the $100 trillion-mark.

One word came to my mind at that moment:

Unsustainable.

Branimir Gruić and Andreas Schrimpf wrote “Cross-border investments in global debt markets since the crisis” in the latest BIS Quarterly Review– a report from the Bank of International Settlements (the central bank of central banks). From the publication released Sunday:

Global debt markets have grown to an estimated $100 trillion (in amounts outstanding) in mid-2013 (Graph C, left-hand panel), up from $70 trillion in mid-2007. Growth has been uneven across the main market segments. Active issuance by governments and non-financial corporations has lifted the share of domestically issued bonds, whereas more restrained activity by financial institutions has held back international issuance (Graph C, left-hand panel).

Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers (Graph C, left-hand panel). They mostly issue debt in domestic markets, where amounts outstanding reached $43 trillion in June 2013, about 80% higher than in mid-2007 (as indicated by the yellow area in Graph C, left-hand panel)…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers”

Gruić and Schrimpf are correct- I’m not surprised.

And regular Survival And Prosperity readers shouldn’t be either, as warnings about reduced government services and new/higher taxes and fees (to deal with all this new debt) have been issued time and time again.

You can read the entire BIS report here (page 22 of the .pdf file/page 18 of the publication contains Gruić and Schrimpf’s findings).

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Gold Confiscation

One thing that’s probably entered the mind of anyone who owns physical gold is the threat of government confiscation. I’ve read quite a few articles over the last several years about that danger, and what Adrian Ash published on the website of the world’s largest online investment gold service and Survival And Prosperity advertising partner- BullionVault- was one of the more informative pieces I’ve read in quite some time. Ash, who runs the research desk over at the London-based company, wrote on December 7:

When Governments Steal Gold – 7 December 2012

Three nasty examples of how people lost the gold they owned

CHATTER in the trading rooms says some gold owners fear a punitive US tax hike in New Year 2013, writes Adrian Ash at BullionVault, with the Obama government targeting precious-metal investors.

Hence this month’s sell-off (or so the tittle-tattle says) – akin to the move by Japanese households to sell gold in late 2011 ahead of new reporting rules for precious-metals dealers.

In truth, such a US move looks very unlikely. Ahead of needing cross-party support to fix both the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling disaster, it would be clearly partisan. (Not all US gold investors are Republicans, but very few are Democrats in our experience.) And besides, gold already attracts the higher 28% rate of capital-gains tax in the US, since it is deemed a “collectible”. Easier to raise CGT rates across the board, and whack anyone trying to grow their savings in fair measure. It would raise far more revenue, too.

Still, this chit-chat does highlight a key point about gold – the fact that, within living memory, it got special ill-treatment from government everywhere. Western households were blocked from owning gold bullion for 30 years and more after the end of WWII. Over the 20 years previous, their gold had been variously nationalized, compulsorily purchased and stolen.

Not just investment-grade bullion. And not just gold belonging to private citizens either.

1935: Mussolini nabs 35 tonnes of gold wedding rings

The United States “confiscation” of 1933 is well-known (in fact a compulsory purchase, made at the then-price of $20.67 per ounce before the price was raised to $35.) But with gold still central to the monetary system, many governments were looking to acquire more. With a smile, of course.

December 1935 saw popular Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini appeal to the patriotism of Italy’s wives, urging them to swap their gold wedding bands for steel rings instead. Yes, really. On Wednesday the 18th, La Stampa gave over its entire front page to this financing drive:

• “The most noble rite of ‘faith’ joins all women in Italy in one heroic will” (‘fede’ meaning both ‘wedding ring’ and ‘faith’ – clever, eh?)
• “The Queen lays down her wedding ring upon the Altar of the Homeland”
• “The proud and moving offer of the women in Turin”

Italian women were so “encouraged” by this popular show of patriotism that, fifty years later, they were still ashamed at being forced to part with their wedding rings. Mussolini got 35 tonnes all told. He ended upside down, hung on a meat hook from the roof of a petrol station.

1939: Nazi Germany steals Czech gold in London

You didn’t need to be a private individual, nor keep your gold at home, to lose precious metals in the 1930s. Little-recalled today, the Nazis’ theft of Czechoslovakian gold reserves caused such fuss in the British press in mid-1939 that the public was fully prepared for war by the time Germany invaded Poland in September.

The Bank for International Settlement had been established in 1930 to try and manage the fast-collapsing international Gold Standard. Based in neutral Switzerland, it was supposed to be above politics, and although its senior staff were all senior central bankers in their home countries, they played by a “gentlemanly” code of mutual support and respect. Unelected both then and now, central bankers held themselves to be noble and independent from the dirty business of democracy or dictatorship.

So when, on 20 March 1939, just after the Nazis marched into Prague, a message was sent to the BIS apparently by the Czech National Bank, the BIS duly passed the message on. It asked the Bank of England (then, as now, the world’s premier clearing point for physical gold) to move the metal held in BIS account No.2 to a new BIS account, No.17.

Never mind that the Czechs had already sent word that any instructions would come “under duress” and must be ignored. Never mind that the British parliament had put a freeze on all Czech assets, to defend them against Nazi theft. And never mind that the Bank of England knew BIS No.2 contained Czech gold, and that No.17 was held for the German Reichsbank. Because the Bank of England’s governor, Montagu Norman, was also a director of the non-political BIS. And he’d do anything to protect the noble independence of central bankers, applying their “gentlemanly” rules and so appeasing the Nazis one last time, by feigning ignorance of whose gold sat in those two anonymous BIS accounts.

The transfer was done before anyone outside the central banks knew, and the gold was then sold in just 10 days. By the time the story broke in May, the £6 million in proceeds was long gone. (We can find no reference to the transfer, nor to the national scandal starting in May, in Norman’s spidery-writing in his personal diary.)

1966: Britain starts prosecuting gold-coin investors

Two decades after the war ended, and 35 years after Britain quit the Gold Standard, its politicians were busy meddling with gold investment. Because the Pound was falling on the currency markets. So people were buying gold, sending money overseas to buy it and so hurting the UK’s already terrible balance of trade. Thereby hurting the Pound yet again.

To try and stem the slide, the Labour government put a block on imports of gold coin, and banned private citizens from owning more than four gold coins. Anyone with a bigger collection had to tell the Bank of England, whose officers would then judge whether the owner was a true collector, or a speculator.

Speaking in the (very heated) parliamentary debate of 13 June, the Conservative MP for Worthing, Terence Higgins, asked why the Government was attacking gold. “People are holding gold because they have no faith in the Government’s policy on the stabilization of the cost of living and on curtailing the rate of inflation…Will it take action against other specific assets which are a hedge against inflation?” (Indian households might ask the same today.)

But too bad – the “rule of four” went through (as it became known by retail dealers). By June 1967 some 4,847 people had submitted themselves to the Bank of England’s scrutiny, and prosecutions had begun. Exchange controls on gold were finally lifted by the first Thatcher administration’s first budget, in 1979.

The moral of these tales? Because gold is no longer central to the world’s monetary system, so-called “confiscation” looks a very 20th century phenomenon today. But that may well change. Exchange controls such as Britain had in the 1970s (and which Italy didn’t lose until 1999) are more likely. Because people, like governments, want to own gold when they fear inflation, financial strife or political crisis. Holding it at home could expose them to theft or coercion. If they hold it safely at arm’s length overseas, even a secure democratic jurisdiction requires clear ownership if you are retain control.

Be sure to get it if you’re thinking about Buying Gold any time soon.

Adrian Ash, 07 Dec ’12

(Editor’s note: Permission to republish the above material granted by BullionVault)

BullionVault

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India, China To Boost Gold Demand Even More?

As I write this Tuesday afternoon, the spot price of gold is just north of $1,660- somewhat higher from last week when a number of observers were claiming the gold bull market was either dead or on its last legs. While the precious metal saw some major price drops recently, it should be noted that Indian jewelers were on strike, and China wasn’t observed to be making any significant acquisitions of the yellow metal. These two nations are the world’s largest gold buyers.

Well, the strike in India is over, and it’s suspected the People’s Republic of China isn’t as uninterested in gold as it appears. From Allen Sykora (Kitco News) on the Forbes website today:

Physical demand for gold is expected to pick up again now that Indian jewelry shops have ended a strike, although it remains to be seen how strong this demand will be and whether the protests will resume next month, analysts said.

A majority of India’s jewelers closed their shops for roughly three weeks to protest a doubling of the import tax on gold from 2% to 4% and introduction of an excise tax of 1% on unbranded gold jewelry. Jewelers reopened late last week when Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee reportedly offered assurances he would consider a rollback of the excise duty…

India, along with China, is one of the world’s two largest consumers of gold. The end of the strike comes at a key time, with the approach of India’s gift-giving Akshaya Tritiya festival on April 24.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

And from the Australian business news and commentary website Business Spectator today:

The Australian’s Robin Bromby reckons Zijin Mining Group’s bid Norton Gold Fields is just the beginning of a much larger gold-buying program in China, and that there’s more to it than simple mergers and acquisitions.

“A very reliable source close to several gold companies tells us Chinese interests are not only taking stakes in explorers and miners, they are also buying gold directly from producers and shipping it home. There is much talk in gold bug circles in the US that the recent purchase by the Bank of International Settlements of more than four tonnes of gold may have been wholly or in part on behalf of the People’s Bank of China. Our source is quite clear on one thing: the move on NGF is just the beginning. China wants more gold and it doesn’t want to pay full market price for it (as it doesn’t for any mineral) so it will be looking to pick up more Australian gold producers and add the yellow metal to its existing central bank gold pile. Not something the Perth Mint will be happy to hear.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Sounds like the PRC doesn’t want to advertise its gold buying program to the rest of the world than it needs to. Which is understandable, as gold prices could rise in anticipation of purchases.

I guess the Chinese haven’t heard about gold being just a “barbarous relic” yet.

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein)

Sources:

Sykora, Allen. “Physical Gold Demand Expected To Pick Up As Indian Festival Approaches, Jewelers Strike Ends.” Forbes. 10 Apr. 2012. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/kitconews/2012/04/10/physical-gold-demand-expected-to-pick-up-as-indian-festival-approaches-jewelers-strike-ends/). 10 Apr. 2012.

“THE DISTILLERY: Riling Rio.” Business Spectator. 10 Apr. 2012. (http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/china-resources-australian-economy-asx-rio-tinto-i-pd20120410-T7S3T?OpenDocument). 10 Apr. 2012.

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