I am somebody who watches the price of gold rather closely—it’s actually the second thing I look at in the morning. We have no clocks in this house, so the first thing I do when I get out of bed is glance at the time in the corner of my computer, then click on the gold price widget on my desktop. When the price of gold wildly shoots upwards, it tends to mean that bad things are coming. But many times, such rocket-like fluctuation can be ascribed to group-think investor paranoia—or some barely justified Wall Street exuberance when gold drops in price—rather than any game-changing economic event. To be clear, I am very pro-gold, and think it’s a good solid investment, but I have watched it closely enough over the past few years to see the price drop even as the fundamentals of the economy got worse and worse. The opposite is supposed to happen. The price of gold does not change as “whimsically” as stock prices do, although gold is still most certainly subject to investor “moods”—moreso than any other commodity. That’s sort of the point, I suppose.
Lately gold has been on a bit of a tear with all of the doomsday “High Noon for the Dollar” type headlines and the rumors of China, Russia and the Arab states ending the US dollar’s almighty place in the scheme of “things” as the world’s reserve currency. (I’d wager Matt Drudge and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard must both have sizable gold holdings!).
Dangerous Minds pal Charles Hugh Smith presents a more nuanced view of the dollar’s fate at his Of Two Minds blog:
As the “news” continues to trumpet the decline/collapse of the U.S. dollar, many observers seem to have forgotten that the U.S. dollar is the defacto “shared currency” of the world’s largest economy and its biggest rising-star economy. Yes, the U.S. and the PRC—China. China’s currency (officially the renminbi, a.k.a. yuan) is transparently pegged to the U.S. dollar at about 6.8 yuan to the dollar, down from 8+ a few years ago.
Given that Japan is the world’s second-largest economy by most measures, and that the yen is informally pegged to the U.S. dollar (trading in a band of 90-110 yen for years on end), then it could be argued that the world’s three largest economies all “share” the U.S. dollar.
Let’s establish the primary context of China’s leadership: 1 billion poor citizens seeking a better job/wage/life. Here is a puff piece by former U.K. prime Minister Tony Blair which makes one key point: most of China’s citizens are still very poor, and thus the leadership is obsessed with “growth” and jobs above all else: China’s New Cultural Revolution: The world’s largest country has a long way to go, but there’s no question it’s changing for the better. (WSJ.com)
Superficial stories about China are accompanied by glitzy photos of Shanghai skyscrapers and other scenes from the wealthy urban coastal cities, but the fact is that the consumer buying power of China is roughly equivalent to that of England (51 million residents).
Thus those who believe the vast Chinese manufacturing-export sector can suddenly direct its staggering output to domestic consumers in China are simply mistaken: Chinese consumption is perhaps a mere 1/10th of that needed to absorb the mighty flood of goods being produced by China.
Put yourself in the shoes of China’s leadership: what do you care about more: $2 trillion in U.S. bonds or creating jobs for 100 million people? It’s the jobs that matter, and despite its very public complaints about the slipping dollar, perhaps China doth protest too much—or more accurately, for domestic public consumption.
The consequences of a weakening dollar are neutral for Chinese exports to the U.S. but positive for exports to Japan and the European Union. Chinese exports to the EU and Japan have risen sharply in the past nine years, and a weak dollar keeps Chinese goods cheaper than rival exports in these key global markets.
Read More: The Forgotten Peg: Chinese Yuan and U.S. Dollar by Charles Hugh Smith