Why Did The Bundesbank Secretly Withdraw Two-Thirds Of Its London Gold? [Zerohedge]


Two days ago we reported that the German Court of Auditors demanded that the German Central Bank, the Bundesbank, verify and audit its official gold holdings consisting of 3,396 tons, held mostly offshore, namely New York, London and Paris, at least according to official documents. It also called for repatriation of 150 tons in the next three years to perform a quality inspection of the tungsten gold. Today, in a surprising development, via the Telegraph we learn that none other than the same Bundesbank which is causing endless nightmares for all the other broke European nations due to its insistence for sound money, decided to voluntarily pull two thirds of its gold holdings held by the Bank of England. According to a confidential report referenced by the Telegraph, Buba reclaimed 940 tons, reducing its BOE holdings from 1,440 in 2000 to 500 in 2001 allegedly “because storage costs were too high.” This is about as idiotic an excuse as the Fed cancelling its reporting of M3 in 2006 because “the costs of collecting the underlying data outweigh the benefits.” So why did Buba repatriate its gold? Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has an idea.

The shift came as the euro was at its weakest, slumping to $0.84 against the dollar. But it also came as the Bank of England was selling off most of Britain’s gold reserves – at market lows – on orders from Gordon Brown.

 

Peter Hambro, chair of the UK-listed gold miner Petropavlovsk, said the Bundesbank may have withdrawn its bullion in self-protection since it did not, apparently, have its own specifically allocated bars in London. “They may have decided that the Bank of England had lent out too much gold, and decided it was safer to bring theirs home. This is about the identification. Can you identify your own allocated gold, or are you just a general creditor with a metal account?”

 

The watchdog report follows claims by the German civic campaign group “Bring Back our Gold” and its US allies in the Gold Anti-Trust Committee that official data cannot be trusted. They allege central banks have loaned out or “sold short” much of their gold.

 

The refrain has been picked up by German legislators. “All the gold must come home: it is precisely in this crisis that we need certainty over our gold reserves,” said Heinz-Peter Haustein from the Free Democrats (FDP).

Speculation aside, the fact that central banks, and even banks of central banks (i.e., the BIS), have long lent out gold, is no secret to anyone, traditionally to satisfy short-term physical gold confirmation claims upon a spike in demand, usually associated with a liquidity shortage (when the value of gold as monetary collateral truly shines). The problem with this rehypothecation scheme is what happens when the counterparty suddenly finds themselves insolvent, the gold has since been re-re-rehypothecated, and nobody really knows whose gold it is any more. This becomes a drastic problem when a counterparty in a collateral chain suddenly goes broke… like MF Global did last year, and the lawsuits started flying trying to determine whose gold is where. Needless to say, it was the London office of MF Global that was at fault for breaching a rehypothecation chain (because only in London was there no collateral haircut limit on rehypotehcation), and once physical delivery demands arose, nobody could locate bar XYZ with a given serial number.

 

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