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Golden balls from the UK Treasury

May 7, 2009

There never was a convincing explanation of Gordon Brown’s decision exactly a decade ago to dump Britain’s gold reserves at the bottom of the market. At the time, there was much flannel about diversification, the attraction of holding currencies that paid interest and the suggestion that gold was an archaic relic that had no place in the vaults of a modern central bank.

Gold's bull market

However, this week’s justification is a new one on me. According to the UK Treasury, “as a result of the [sale] programme, a one-off reduction in risk of approximately 30 per cent was achieved.”  Unsuccessful fund managers might borrow this nonsensical explanation. “Your portfolio has missed a bull market which saw prices treble, but we achieved a one-off reduction in risk of 30 per cent.”

The sale remains one of Brown’s most expensive and unnecessary mistakes, and rather than blathering on with meaningless justifications, it would behove the Treasury to admit as much. Meanwhile, the Chinese have been buying. Perhaps they’ve noticed that gold is so much harder to print than pounds, dollars, euros, yen…

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  • About Neil

    "City Editor, The Daily Telegraph 1986-2005 City Editor, The Sunday Times, 1984-1986 City Editor, Evening Standard, 1979-1984 Director Templeton Emerging Markets Investment Trust plc, Finsbury Growth and Income Trust plc Passion: fly fishing (and wife Julia and seven-year-old twins)"
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