Barry Ritholtz has been receiving a lot of praise for his 2,500-word Bloomberg listicle “10 Reasons the Gold Bugs Lost Their Shirts”. Which is weird, because it’s deeply flawed. Here, then, are the top ten places he goes wrong:
The total amount of gold in the world, according to Thomson Reuters, is 171,300 metric tonnes, or 5.5 billion troy ounces. What that means is that every time the price of gold falls by $100 an ounce, as it did on Friday and it has done again today, the value of the world’s gold falls by more than $500 billion.
It worked! Kinda. I took Matthew Bishop’s challenge, and tried to spend a gram of gold like I would any other currency. And, frankly, didn’t have a lot of luck — until I managed to find a small business where the owner just happened to be standing around. In the end, I got three lobster rolls (and free drinks, too) for one gram of gold. Which were very tasty — thank you Snack Box!
You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to find this worrying: a 1kg gold bar, certified as 99.98% pure by XRF (X-ray fluorescence) tests, turns out to have been drilled out and largely replaced with tungsten. This bar was discovered only because it was 2 grams lighter than it ought to have been: the forgers failed to add quite enough gold to the outside of the bar to make up for the weight lost when they replaced gold with tungsten. But if they’d gotten the weight right, it would probably still be circulating today.
Erin Arvedlund — yes, that Erin Arvedlund — has a pretty crazy column in the Philadelphia Inquirer, under the headline “Why buying gold may be better financially than buying a house.” It says pretty much what you’d expect: house prices are falling, gold prices are rising, and therefore before you go ahead and buy a house, you should probably consider whether you’d be better off buying gold instead.
Is it a coincidence that the price of gold hit an all-time high just as David Cameron was becoming the prime minister of Britain? Yes. But it’s also indicative of the enormous amount of uncertainty that continues to pervade the market. If you’re just looking at the stock market, you’re not looking at the most sensitive barometer of fears about the global economy in general and the eurozone in particular. As Paul Krugman notes, the euro/dollar exchange rate is probably a better place to look, and that’s now back down below 1.27, after trading at 1.50 as recently as December. For what it’s worth, here’s the price of gold in euros:
Courtney Comstock is absolutely right when she runs a story under the headline “You Know It’s Over When Esquire Magazine Is Telling Its Readers How To Invest In Gold Funds”. In a spectacularly silly article, Esquire’s Ken Kurson extolls the virtues of buying gold-denominated hedge funds, on the grounds that if the hedge fund doubles and gold doubles, then you’ll end up quadrupling your money! Genius.
I was pleasantly surprised by the volume of email response I got to a passing reference to Kripkenstein on this blog — clearly quite a lot of you enjoy a bit of analytical philosophy! I went out to lunch today with a couple of philosophically-inclined finance types as a result, and, since I’m still high on Sichuan peppercorns and it seems to be something of a slow news day, I thought I’d put up a poll.