The Changing Role Of Gold

In our post on August 11 titled End of an ERA: The Bretton Woods System and Gold Standard Exchange, we discussed the significance of then-President Nixon’s action of closing the gold window thereby ending the Bretton Woods Monetary system.

Under the Bretton Woods monetary system, central banks could exchange their US dollar reserves for gold. This also ended the gold fixed price of US$35 per ounce.

This week we explore the two questions that concluded last week’s article: What role can gold serve in the international financial system in the future? And why do central banks continue to increase their gold reserves?

Starting with the latter question of why central banks continue to increase their gold reserves?

This is an important factor in the gold market and therefore a topic we have discussed before – see our post from July 8: Central Banks Plan to Increase their Gold Reserves in 2021 – Here’s Why, for example.  

The net demand from central banks has been positive since 2010 and collectively central banks hold over 35,000 metric tonnes of gold. This accounts for approximately a fifth of all gold ever mined.

Gold and its Primary Role

An article posted on Reuters by World Gold Council sums it up as: One of gold’s primary roles for central banks is to diversify their reserves. The banks are responsible for their nations’ currencies. However, these can be subject to swings in value depending on the perceived strength or weakness of the underlying economy.

At times of need, banks may be forced to print more money, Since interest rates, the traditional lever of monetary control, have been stuck near zero for over a decade. This increase in the money supply may be necessary to stave off economic turmoil. However, at the cost of devaluing the currency.

Gold, by contrast, is a finite physical commodity whose supply can’t easily be added to. As such, it is a natural hedge against inflation.

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