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Financial Times Deutschland joins hunt for Germany's gold

Section: Daily Dispatches

3:03p Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dear Friend of GATA and Gold:

The long clamor about the German gold reserves by GATA and particularly by our friends, the German journalist Lars Schall and the German market analyst Dimitri Speck, this week caught the attention of the German edition of the Financial Times, which published a story headlined "Speculation and Rumors: The Hunt for the Treasure of the Bundesbank."

The Financial Times Deutschland confirms, as GATA has reported, that most of the German gold is stored outside the country, partly for international security reasons but more so now for ease of trading and general subservience to the United States. The FTD story is notable mainly for extracting from the German central bank, the Bundesbank, a statement that no German gold is being leased at the moment.

Unfortunately the FTD's question, or at least the Bundesbank's answer, did not encompass gold swaps, particularly gold swaps with agencies of the U.S. government, also major mechanisms of gold price suppression, which were the focus of Schall's telling recent inquiries of the Bundesbank, inquiries the Bundesbank turned away without answering:

And the FTD's story errs completely in asserting: "In the 1960s former Bundesbank president Karl Blessing allegedly sent a letter to the American high commissioner in Germany in which he guaranteed that gold would not be converted into dollars. The letter is unpublished to this day; that's why it cannot be excluded that the commitments went even further."

... Dispatch continues below ...


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In fact the supposedly mysterious Blessing letter was sent, in 1967, not to the American high commissioner in Germany but to the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, William McChesney Martin Jr.; it did not guarantee that Germany would not trade gold for dollars but quite the opposite, that Germany would not trade dollars for gold; and GATA published it in January this year, thanks to the efforts of Speck and University of Texas economics professor James K. Galbraith, who obtained a copy of the letter from the Lyndon B. Johnson presidential library at the university:

But the FTD story is a good start by a major news organization in getting interested in the details of gold price suppression. The FTD and other news organizations would perform even better service by pressing the Bundesbank, the Bank of England, and the Federal Reserve about gold swaps, the Fed in 2009 having admitted undertaking them --

-- and the Bank of England having refused last month to distinguish its gold loans and swaps from its general reporting of its claimed gold reserves:

The Financial Times Deutschland story is appended -- first an English translation provided by Schall and then the original in German.

CHRIS POWELL, Secretary/Treasurer
Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee Inc.

* * *

Speculation and Rumors:

The Hunt for the Treasure of the Bundesbank

Germany is in possession of 3,400 tons of gold, the second-largest gold reserves in the world. But where is the billion-dollar treasure stored? There has been wild speculation about this for years. Financial Times Deutschland went in search of clues.

By Peter Vollmer
Financial Times Deutschland
Monday, November 7, 2011

Anyone who wants to lay his hands on the gold reserves of the Bundesbank -- which are currently approximately 3,401 tons with a current market value of $196 billion -- faces a problem: Where is the gold of the Bundesbank anyway?

This simple question has been the subject of wild speculation. Critical minds claim that the precious metal was largely in the United States, where it was deposited on the one hand during the Cold War as far away as possile from the "Iron Curtain," and on the other hand also as an ideological pledge of loyalty to the alliance of Germany to the United States.

Supercritical spirits even doubt that the Bundesbank has the gold at all.

Let's take one thing at a time.

The big gold reserves of the Federal Republic -- according to recent data from the the mining lobby World Gold Council the second largest in the world after the U.S., which holds with 8,133 tons, more than twice as much -- date from the 1950s. With the economic miracle, West German exports boomed and many nations paid in gold.

In 1968, Germany held 4,000 tons -- the culmination of the German gold holdings. A large portion of these reserves was, however, never transported, which is both logistically and actuarially difficult. The gold simply changed hands at the great trading centers in New York, London, or Paris without ever changing the local storage locations there.

During the Cold War, it seemed too uncertain to deposit the gold at the headquarters of the Bundesbank in the financial metropolis Frankfurt -- just 100 kilometers away from what in the Cold War was called the "Fulda Gap" -- a spot at the inner German border, which would have been ideal for an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops in wartime because of its topography.

Over the years Germany's gold reserves decreased slightly, especially since the gold price dropped between 1980 and 2000, interrupted only by occasional convulsions. With the gold price increasing beginning in 2001 from below $300 per troy ounce to $700 in 2006 and finally above $1,000 in 2008, the perception of gold in the public mind changed, and more and more critical minds were interested in the whereabouts of the gold.

But the Bundesbank was tight-lipped: Its former chief executive, Hans-Helmut Kotz, told the magazine Stern in 2004: "The biggest part of our gold reserves is held at the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and the Banque de France, in that order." Never again has any representative of the Bundesbank expressed himself in such detail.

Via a written request to the Federal Government, Member of Parliament Peter Gauweiler received in November 2010 no further details of the storage locations but learned that the Bundesbank maintains its gold holdings in physical form -- not in the form of dodgy, windy delivery promises of banks that may be cash-strapped in time of crisis -- and that lending would be made in the current low-percentage range.

... Gold Lender Bundesbank

So anyone who does the treasure hunt has to patch up a map first: for example, from rumors -- 2.300 of the 3.400 tons are allegedly in the vaults of the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan. That would be more than two-thirds of the total gold reserves. The testimony of former Bundesbanker Kotz would not be contradicted by that. And because the Bundesbank is so tight-lipped, a lot of yarn is spun.

This also implies that the central bank would have lent the gold to collect interest on the loan -- and to give unspecified market forces such as banks the opportunity to suppress the gold price by selling the borrowed gold at the market. That would be a classic short sale, for which specualators are blamed in the stock and bond markets, and there would have been a lot of winners except for gold owners and producers. The central bank would receive interest for lending the gold that would otherwise uselessly lounge around.

Speculators could suppress the price with the sale of the borrowed gold and buy the gold back later more cheaply and pocket the difference as profit, more so as one pushes the gold price down. And both banks and central banks have an indirect interest in a low gold price, even if their gold reserves are worth less. The price of gold is ultimately a crisis indicator of system stability and future inflation rates; the higher the gold price, the higher the stress in the system, which neither banks nor central banks want.

But either the Bundesbank is lying or the conspiracy theory of "gold price suppression" via short selling with borrowed gold is wrong, because at the request of the Financial Times Germany, the Bundesbank announced that "at present no gold is lent."

Thorsten Schulte has neither a wooden leg nor an eye patch -- only his nickname fits the image of the treasure hunt. The "Silver Boy" is an expert in precious metals. He says: "Of course it is suspect that the Bundesbank reveals so little." There are several explanations. One is that the Bundesbank appeals to reasons of security and business policy.

... 'Diplomatic consideration for the U.S.'

In various Internet forums it is conjectured that the reserve was a dead pledge to the United States. But at the Bundesbank they do not want to hear of that: "We are guided by safety, cost efficiency, and liquidity," said a spokeswoman. Changes of storage locations were not excluded in general, but a transport to Germany's own vaults would be associated with high costs. Therefore, much of the gold is stored abroad.

Most experts consider it likely that Germany does not want to offend the wooden leg of the U.S.: "I suppose it's also about diplomatic consideration for the U.S.," says Schulte.

In the 1960s former Bundesbank president Karl Blessing allegedly sent a letter to the American High Commissioner in Germany in which he guaranteed that gold would not be converted into dollars. The letter is unpublished to this day; that's why it cannot be excluded that the commitments went even further. And even if not: "To carry the gold away from the U.S. would be a distrust signal first-class," says Schulte.

The situation is not as dramatic anyway. Parts of the German gold are simply in New York, Paris, or London because it can be traded or sold better this way. About 60 central banks store their bullion in Manhattan, thus saving the cost of transport. "In addition, there are reputable sources who say that the Bundesbank would bring small quantities to Germany time after time," says "Silver Boy" Schulte.

Therefore, the gold reserves that lie under the Bundesbank branches in Mainz and Frankfurt had not for long been at more than 4 percent of the total, as gold fans speculated over and over again. The Bundesbank told the FTD that "a large part of its gold reserves" are in Germany. However, more precise statements will not be given for the time being, and therefore conspiracy theorists will continue in dark nights at the fireplace spinning yarns about the German gold.

* * *

Spekulation und Geruchte:

Die Jagd auf den Goldschatz der Bundesbank

Von Peter Volmer
Financial Times Deutschland
(Monday, November 7, 2011)

FRANKFURT -- Deutschland besitzt mit 3400 Tonnen Gold die zweitgrößten Goldreserven der Welt. Doch wo lagert der milliardenschwere Schatz überhaupt? Darüber gibt es seit Jahren wilde Spekulationen. war auf Spurensuche.

Wer seine Hand an die Goldreserven der Bundesbank legen will -- derzeit sind das rund 3401 Tonnen mit einem aktuellen Marktwert von 196 Mrd. Dollar --, steht vor einem Problem: Wo ist das Gold der Bundesbank überhaupt? Diese einfache Frage ist seit Jahren Gegenstand wilder Spekulationen. Kritische Geister behaupten, das Edelmetall sei größtenteils in den USA, wo es im Kalten Krieg einerseits möglichst weit weg vom "Eisernen Vorhang" und andererseits auch als ideologisches Pfand für die Bündnistreue Deutschlands zur USA deponiert worden sei. Überkritische Geister ziehen sogar in Zweifel, dass die Bundesbank das Gold überhaupt besitzt.

Der Reihe nach: Die großen Goldreserven der Bundesrepublik -- laut jüngsten Daten der Minenlobby World Gold Council die zweithöchsten der Welt nach den USA, die mit 8133 Tonnen nochmals mehr als doppelt so viel hält - stammen noch aus den 1950er-Jahren. Mit dem Wirtschaftswunder brummte der Export, viele Staaten bezahlten mit Gold.

1968 hält Deutschland schließlich 4000 Tonnen -- es ist der Höhepunkt des deutschen Goldbesitzes. Ein großer Teil dieser Reserven wurde indes nie transportiert, was einerseits logistisch und andererseits auch versicherungstechnisch schwierig ist: Das Gold wechselte lediglich auf den großen Handelsplätzen in New York, London oder Paris den Besitzer, ohne dass sich die dortigen Lagerorte jemals veränderten.

Zu Zeiten des Kalten Krieges erschien es ohnehin zu unsicher, das Gold am Sitz der Bundesbank in der Finanzmetropole Frankfurt zu lagern -- gerade einmal 100 Kilometer Luftlinie oder eine Autostunde war jener Punkt entfernt, der im Kalten Krieg den Namen "Fulda Gap" trug -- ein Fleckchen an der innerdeutschen Grenze, der sich aufgrund seiner topographischen Gegebenheiten geradezu ideal für einen Einmarsch der Truppen des Warschauer Pakts im Kriegsfall geeignet hätte.

Über die Jahre baute Deutschland die Goldreserven leicht ab, zumal der Preis zwischen 1980 und 2000 nur von gelegentlichen Zuckungen unterbrochen sank. Mit dem Goldpreisanstieg ab 2001 von seinerzeit unter 300 US-Dollar je Feinunze auf 700 US-Dollar im Jahr 2006 und schließlich über 1000 US-Dollar 2008 änderte sich aber die Wahrnehmung von Gold in der Öffentlichkeit, und immer mehr kritische Geister interessierten sich für den Verbleib des Goldbesitzes.

Doch die Bundesbank gab sich schmallippig: Ihr ehemaliger Vorstand Hans-Helmut Kotz sagte dem Magazin Stern 2004: "Der größte Teil unserer Goldreserven wird bei der Federal Reserve Bank, bei der Bank of England und der Banque de France gehalten. In dieser Reihenfolge."

So detailliert sollte sich ab diesem Zeitpunkt kein Bundesbank-Vertreter mehr äußern. Immerhin: Über eine schriftliche Anfrage an die Bundesregierung bekam der Bundestagsabgeordnete Peter Gauweiler im November 2010 zwar auch keine näheren Details über die Lagerorte heraus, erfuhr aber immerhin, dass die Bundesbank ihre Goldbestände in physischer Form hält -- und nicht etwa in Form windiger Lieferversprechen womöglich im Krisenfall klammer Banken -- und dass Leihgeschäfte allenfalls im niedrigen aktuellen Prozentbereich getätigt würden.

... Goldverleiher Bundesbank

Wer sich also auf die Schatzsuche macht, muss zunächst eine Karte zusammenflicken: Etwa aus Gerüchten -- so sollen 2300 der 3400 Tonnen in den Tresoren unter der Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan liegen. Das wären mehr als zwei Drittel der gesamten Goldreserven. Der Aussage von Ex-Bundesbanker Kotz widerspräche das nicht. Und weil sich die Bundesbank so verschlossen gibt, wird eben eine Menge Seemannsgarn gesponnen.

Dazu zahlt auch, dass die Notenbank das Gold verliehen hätte, um selbst Zinsen auf die Leihe zu kassieren -- und nicht naher bezeichneten Marktkräften wie etwa Banken die Möglichkeit zu geben, den Goldpreis durch einen Verkauf des geliehenen Goldes am Markt dessen Kurs zu drucken. Das wäre ein klassischer Leerverkauf, wie man ihn am Aktien -- und Anleihenmarkt den Spekulanten vorwirft, der indes außer Goldbesitzern und Minenbetreibern eine Menge Gewinner kennen wurde: Die Notenbank erhielte für das Verleihen des ansonsten unnütz herumliegenden Goldes Zinsen.

Spekulanten konnten mit dem Verkauf des geliehenen Goldes den Kurs drücken und sich das Gold später billiger zurück kaufen und die Differenz als Gewinn einstreichen, der um so größer ausfallt, je tiefer man den Goldpreis drückt. Und sowohl Banken als auch Notenbanken haben indirekt Interesse an einem niedrigen Goldpreis, selbst wenn ihre Goldreserven dann weniger wert sind: Der Goldpreis gilt schliesslich als Krisenindikator fur die Systemstabilität und künftige Inflationsraten: Je hoher der Goldpreis, desto höher auch der Stress im System -- den aber weder Banken noch Notenbanken wollen.

Doch entweder lügt die Bundesbank -- oder aber die Verschworungstheorie der "Goldpreisdrückung" über Leerverkaufe mit geliehenem Gold stimmen nicht, denn auf Anfrage der Financial Times Deutschland teilt die Bundesbank mit, "dass derzeit kein Gold verliehen ist."

Thorsten Schulte hat weder ein Holzbein, noch eine Augenklappe -- nur sein Spitzname passt in das Bild der Schatzsuche. Der "Silberjunge" ist Fachmann für Edelmetalle. Er meint: "Natürlich wirkt es suspekt, dass die Bundesbank so wenig preisgibt." Dafur gibt es verschiedene Erklärungen. Etwa die der Bundesbank, die sich auf Gründe der Sicherheit und der Geschäftspolitik beruft.

.... "Diplomatische Rücksicht auf die USA"

In verschiedenen Internetforen wird gemutmaßt, die Reserve sei ein Faustpfand der USA. Doch davon will man bei der Bundesbank nichts wissen: "Wir lassen uns von Sicherheit, Kosteneffizienz und Liquidität leiten," sagt eine Sprecherin. Lagerstellenwechsel seien dabei nicht generell ausgeschlossen; ein Transport nach Deutschland in eigene Tresoranlagen wäre allerdings mit hohen Kosten verbunden. Deswegen lagere eben so viel Gold im Ausland.

Für am wahrscheinlichsten halten es Experten, dass Deutschland den USA nicht vor das Holzbein stoßen will: "Vermutlich geht es auch um diplomatische Rücksicht auf die USA," sagt Schulte. In den Sechzigern soll der damalige Bundesbank-Prasident Karl Blessing einen Brief an den amerikanischen Hochkommissar in Deutschland geschrieben haben, in dem er garantierte, das Gold nicht in Dollar zu tauschen. Der Brief ist bis heute unveroffentlicht, deswegen lässt sich nicht ausschließen, dass die Zusagen noch weiter gingen. Und selbst wenn nicht: "Das Gold aus den USA abzutransportieren ware ein Misstrauenssignal erster Klasse," sagt Schulte.

Ganz so dramatisch ist die Situation ohnehin nicht: Teile des Deutschen Goldes liegen schlichtweg deswegen in New York, Paris oder London, damit es sich besser verkaufen oder eintauschen lässt. Gut 60 Notenbanken lagern ihre Barren unter Manhattan und sparen sich so im Zweifel die Transportkosten. "Zudem gibt es seriöse Quellen die sagen, immer wieder würde die Bundesbank kleine Mengen nach Deutschland holen," sagt "Silberjunge" Schulte.

Daher lagen die Goldreserven unter den Bundesbank-Ablegern in Mainz und Frankfurt schon lange nicht mehr bei rund vier Prozent, wie Goldfans immer wieder gemutmasst hatten. Auch die Bundesbank teilte der FTD mit, in Deutschland befinde sich derzeit "ein großer Teil der Goldreserven." Genauere Aussagen wird es vorerst allerdings nicht geben, und so lange werden Verschworungstheoretiker in dunklen Kaminnachten weiter Seemannsgarn uber das deutsche Gold spinnen.

* * *

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