Gold Breaks $1,100: Does It Matter?

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"China has $2.27 trillion in reserves. Spending $25 billion a year buying gold is chump change."

Last week, gold prices briefly touched $1,100/oz before settling just under that number. Apparently the Indian government decided to sell U.S. dollars and make a 200 ton gold purchase from the IMF, which created the spike in gold prices. Right now, the spot price for the yellow metal is $1,106.



The IMF still has another 203 tons of gold to sell and the hot favorite to make the purchase has been China. However, according to a report by Reuters, it's a lot cheaper for China to buy domestically mined gold than purchase bullion from the IMF at the current spot price. According to Li Yang, a former adviser to the People's Bank, "China's gold is much cheaper than that."

You may not realize it, but China is the world's No. 1 gold producer, and its mine costs are much less than $1,100 per ounce. And given China's propensity to put national well-being over any private individual or firm, they're likely to just pay for the gold being mined at cost, which would be a lot lower than the spot price.

It's cheaper for China to buy gold from the Chinese market, but it doesn't help diversify its huge foreign exchange reserves.

To diversify its portfolio, China should spend dollars on things like gold. But the catch is that even if China bought half the world's annual gold supply, it would only cost a few tens of billions of dollars, which is tiny compared to China's huge reserves.

China has $2.27 trillion in reserves. Spending $25 billion a year buying gold is chump change. The question that's relevant is whether they will, because that will put upward pressure on gold prices.

While no one knows whether China will or will not buying gold on the open market, the one thing we do know is that the monetary base of the US dollar is growing exponentially making each existing dollar less valuable. Check out this graph from the St. Louis Fed:



While it's not obvious from the graph, the monetary base has grown in the past year. It's true that this money hasn't worked its way in to the economy, but if and when it does we should expect higher inflation and a spike in prices of real assets like gold, silver and real estate.

If I had a few trillion dollars, I'd be buying a few hundred tons of gold every year!

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