Gold is money in extremis - just ask Iran
Iran is having to use some of its gold to pay for imported food for its people as sanctions bite and its currency is worthless on world markets. A true use for gold ‘in extremis'
Posted: Friday , 17 Feb 2012
Last week we informed you that Iran claims to hold 907 tonnes of in gold reserves.
This week we're informed that Iran is using gold or oil to buy food as new financial sanctions have hurt its ability to import basic staples for its 74 million people. The difficulty paying for urgent import needs has contributed to sharp rises in the prices of basic foodstuffs, causing hardship for Iranians with just weeks to go before an election seen as a referendum on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's economic policies.
New sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union to punish Iran for its nuclear program do not bar firms from selling Iran food but make it difficult to carry out the international financial transactions needed to pay for it.
"Grain deals are being paid for in gold bullion and barter deals are being offered," one European grains trader said. Some of the major trading houses are involved. Another virtue of using gold is that barter or gold payments are the quickest option to get imports.
Any bank that deals with the Iranian central bank will be punished by the U.S. -they control the world's dollars in New York, even if they are owned by other nations. Please note that the U.S. can freeze any nation's dollar reserves! Life is about control or freedom from control.
We gave you an article last week on gold in reserves indicating the possibility of the confiscation of citizen's gold. While the case of Iran is an exception in what seems to be a stable world, investors have to ask themselves not simply,
v "Will there be more countries like Iran, but will monetary crises hurt the exchangeability of any other currency or its international value?
v Will political changes to the balance of power weaken the international exchangeability of a currency or its international value?
v Will such extreme times hit the developed world?"
FUTURE MONETARY VALUES
Such extreme conditions as Iran are not necessary for the gold price to rise. If there's danger that other nations might follow down that road, then their currencies will depreciate and the gold price will rise in those currencies.
But Iran is a classic case of why gold is a last resort, reserve asset. Iran's currency is worthless outside its borders; its name is mud in the developed world -it's this that Alan Greenspan described as "in extremis".
He said, "Gold is money, in extremis". For Iran that's a very real and present situation now, and gold is providing a rescue for them. It's doing the job it's expected to do. The most prudent investors in the world are central banks and those that have made sure they hold a good quantity of gold. Those who can now afford to are buying it up as fast as the market will allow.
Right now, the price of gold in the Iranian currency is sky high, but the value of that currency outside the country is zero. So much for gold prices in local currencies! When such a situation is reached, then what we have repeatedly said comes true,
"It's not the price of gold that counts, it's the number of ounces you have!"
Are there countries out there that could move down the same road as Iran? Can developed countries face the same situation? Maybe not so far down that road as things stand now, but in an uncertain future, that could happen to several rich and poor countries including the U.S.
v If the dollar cannot hold its sole, reserve currency position and foreign buyers cease to accumulate; the value of the U.S. dollar will fall heavily. The U.S. will then be forced to stop issuing dollars for imports but rather sell goods to earn foreign currencies.
v If the Eurozone fragments, those nations leaving the Eurozone will have to turn back to their old currencies and a two-tier currency system. Then their gold reserves will take on extra importance. The continued doubts about Greece tell us that Greece is moving closer to default and to "In extremis" times. We now hear that despite it cooperative implementation of austerity measures, Portugal's debt is still rising strongly as a percentage of GDP. As cash flows to repay debt contracts, it is inexorably moving into extreme times.
We've seen the profits of Societe Generale drop 89% on its investment side and note that the exposure of that bank to the sovereign debt crisis is horrific and could possibly bring the bank down, unless there is a major change of direction in the weaker nation's of Europe's economic direction. This doesn't appear to be on the horizon. The implication that we derive from this is that we're as close to a banking crisis as we are to a Greek default. If such a crisis does suppurate, then it will spread far and wide, and many banks as well as financially weak nations will find their international credit standing facing extreme times. This affects the very structure of the E.U. monetary and banking system.
Not only will banks then distrust each other but so will Chinese investors. No one will support a lost cause. It is that perception that brings aboutextreme times. It is that perception that demands that gold be used as money.
We're watching the euro struggling to stay up against the dollar despite the massive support the currency swaps have given the euro. Just one bank signaling distress may well be the single shot that started the First World War. Then lack of confidence in the monetary system in Europe will force a wider use of gold in support of currencies.