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What does Germany know that we don’t?
The central bank says it is bringing the gold home to help build public “trust and confidence.” In recent years, rumors and conspiracy theories have circulated in Germany about its foreign gold reserves. Some fringe observers questioned whether they had been lost or otherwise compromised.
The issue eventually spilled over into mainstream politics, and the German Federal Court of Auditors asked for an inspection of foreign gold reserves in 2012.
The central bank mounted a defense, saying it received annual updates from foreign central banks where the gold was being stored. It said that the “integrity, reputation and security of these foreign depositories are beyond reproach.”
The following year, however, the central bank announced that it would bring half its reserves home to Frankfurt.
An official announcement last week that the Bundesbank had pretty much repatriated half its gold reserves ahead of schedule has once again sent the rumor mill into overdrive.
Fans of the precious metal – not shy of a good conspiracy theory – have been deliberating over the move ever since Germany detailed it back in 2013. Initially, there was a sense that trust between central banks had broken down with claims that Berlin was effectively questioning the credentials of New York Federal Reserve.
But the talk has now stepped up a notch with the Bundesbank confirming Thursday that it has already moved 583 tons of gold out of New York and Paris. Its plan to hold half its gold in Frankfurt is now three years ahead of schedule.
Reporting the news, Reuters said that some argue the world’s second-biggest bullion reserve “may be needed to back a new deutsche mark, should the euro zone break up.” This seems pretty far-fetched, especially given that the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates ended back in the 1970s. Could Berlin really be prepping for the fall of the euro?
Then there’s the Donald Trump angle. On Thursday, Bundesbank board member Carl-Ludwig Thiele felt the need to speak about the new U.S. president at his press conference – presumably because someone asked him.
“Trump has not triggered a discussion about the storage facility in New York,” he said, according to reports. Trump scaring global central banks to repatriate their gold in case he confiscates it? Sounds equally unbelievable.
Then there’s the rumors coming from Russia. Sputnik News, which incidentally has strongly denied accusations from NATO that it’s a Kremlin propaganda machine, reported that Germany had been given the wrong gold. Quoting Russian economist Vladimir Katasonov, the news site said the U.S. may have sold Germany’s gold bars years ago and hurriedly bought some back as the Bundesbank came knocking.