Friday, March 14, 2008

Brown's golden error

You may remember that brown didn't sell the family silver, he sold the family gold. This was how the Telegraph reported it in 1999:

GORDON BROWN was accused last night of trying to take Britain into the European single currency by stealth after surprising the City with an announcement that he was selling more than half of the country's gold reserves, leaving Britain the lowest bullion holdings of any major country.

The £4 billion of gold reserves - 415 tonnes - will be converted into euros, dollars and yen over the next few years. The sale will see the proportion of reserves held in gold falling from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. The Chancellor's announcement triggered a fall in the price of gold and provoked Tories and Euro-sceptic businessmen to claim the decision was politically motivated to prepare Britain's entry into the euro.

In case you were wondering this is how gold prices had stood in the period:

Fairly flat you'll agree. The in 1997 we learned this:
From The Sunday Times April 15, 2007

Goldfinger Brown’s £2 billion blunder in the bullion market
Chancellor ignored advice on sell-off
GATHERED around a table in one of the Bank of England’s grand meeting rooms, the select group of Britain’s top gold traders could not believe what they were being told.

Gordon Brown had decided to sell off more than half of the country’s centuries-old gold reserves and the chancellor was intending to announce his plan later that day.

It was May 1999 and the gold price had stagnated for much of the decade. The traders present — including senior executives from at least two big investment banks — warned that Brown, who was not at the meeting, could barely have chosen a worse moment.

In the room, just behind the governor’s main office, they cautioned that gold traditionally moved in decades-long cycles and that the price was likely to increase. They added that even if the sale were to go ahead, the timings and amounts should not be announced, as the gold price would plunge.

“The timing of the decision was ludicrous. We told them you are going to push the gold price down before you sell,” said Peter Fava, then head of precious metal dealing at HSBC who was present at the meeting. “We thought it was a disastrous decision; we couldn’t understand it. We brought up a lot of potential problems at the meeting.”

Martin Stokes, former vice-president at JP Morgan, who was also present, said: “I was surprised they had chosen the auction method. It indicated they did not have a real understanding of the gold market.”
According to other sources, however, Bank of England officials told those present they had “little say” about what was going to happen and that they were “doing what they were told”. This was a decision made by Brown and his inner circle, who appeared uninterested in their expert advice.

So now we have gold at over $1,000, that's 3x what it was when Brown decided to sell. In the words of Balls, so what? Well, the economy was growing strongly then and we shouldn't have needed a fire sale, which depressed prices further. Now we have economic problems that gold and extra money would have come in pretty handy.

As Lord Melbourn said:
"What all the wise men promised has not happened and what all the dammed fools said would happen has come to pass

And still they claim to be economically competent. Bastards


Mark Wadsworth said...

Yeah, but what £2 billion between friends? Our beloved gummint spends that much every 29.2 hours. Per taxpayer, that's £67. I mean it's a shame and all, and I am always delighted when they get shown up like this, but in the grander scheme of gummint waste, it's small change.

The Great Simpleton said...

maybe so, but the point is they can't accuse the Tories of seling the "family silver".