The financial world was shocked this month by a demand from Germany’s Bundesbank to repatriate a large portion of its gold reserves held abroad. By 2020, Germany wants 50% of its total gold reserves back in Frankfurt – including 300 tons from the Federal Reserve. The Bundesbank’s announcement comes just three months after the Fed refused to submit to an audit of its holdings on Germany’s behalf. One cannot help but wonder if the refusal triggered the demand.
Either way, Germany appears to be waking up to a reality for which central banks around the world have been preparing: the dollar is no longer the world’s safe-haven asset and the US government is no longer a trustworthy banker for foreign nations. It looks like their fears are well-grounded, given the Fed’s seeming inability to return what is legally Germany’s gold in a timely manner. Germany is a developed and powerful nation with the second largest gold reserves in the world. If they can’t rely on Washington to keep its promises, who can?
Where is Germany’s Gold?
The impact of Germany’s repatriation on the dollar revolves around an unanswered question: why will it take seven years to complete the transfer?
The popular explanation is that the Fed has already rehypothecated all of its gold holdings in the name of other countries. That is, the same mound of bullion is earmarked as collateral for a host of different lenders. Since the Fed depends on a fractional-reserve banking system for its very existence, it would not come as a surprise that it has become a fractional-reserve bank itself. If so, then perhaps Germany politely asked for a seven-year timeline in order to allow the Fed to save face, and to prevent other depositors from clamoring for their own gold back – a ‘run’ on the Fed. ...