Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is sovereign currency about to go out of style?

Gold has been doing very well lately. As people lose confidence in global currencies, they hedge their bets by buying gold. Gold isn’t patented to any one country and so isn’t dependent on the competence of any government. The drawback is that it isn’t widely accepted as currency. That may be about to change.

in 2009, Thomas Geissler, the chief executive of TG-Gold-Super-Markt in Germany, rolled out a vending machine that dispenses small gold bars and coins. He’s since upgraded it to be able to update the price of gold every two minutes and has installed one in the prestigious Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi on a day when gold reached another all-time high.

The trouble with world currencies is that the only difference between a dollar bill and a Treasury bill is that one has an expiration date, and you get an interest premium to compensate for it. So when a government issues new debt (which they’ve all been doing a lot of lately) they are essentially creating new money. They’re adding new supply while demand is waning.

Central banks have been able to keep currencies relatively stable with respect to each other by buying and selling one another’s currency to achieve specific target ranges. They have not been able to hold their own against gold. While production does increase supply, demand is strong and growing. It may hit a tipping point if and when some major company or organization starts accepting, then demanding gold as payment.

A convenient way to acquire gold currency, such as Mr. Geissler’s “Gold to Go” machines, might just be a catalyst to creating a new global currency, which would be terrible news for existing global currencies.

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