Richard Murphy – Money in pursuit of Hopelessness: the Gold Price has hit an all time High

A snapshot of the world economy.

Richard Murphy is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy, City University of London. He campaigns on issues of tax avoidance and tax evasion, as well as blogging at Tax Research UK

Cross-posted from Tax Research UK

File:Gold bullion bars.jpg

The FT has a headline, just out:

As they note:

Gold soared to an all-time high and the dollar weakened to a multiyear low as sharp increases in US coronavirus cases and flare-ups around the world weighed on investor confidence.

The price of the precious metal, which investors typically view as a haven in times of uncertainty, climbed as much as 2.2 per cent to a record $1,944.71 per troy ounce on Monday. Its value has jumped by more than a quarter this year, making it one of the best-performing asset classes.

A series of thoughts inevitably follow.

The first is that this is the clearest possible indication that there is a savings glut in the world.

Second, it strongly implies that this savings glut is most extreme amongst the best off, who are those who typically save using gold.

Third, it also very clearly suggests that they do not think that conventional savings media, such as property and shares, have anything to offer them at present. And they may be right: coronavirus is undermining the property market and many companies appear bankrupt of ideas, if not actually bankrupt.

Fourth, this indicates the conservative nature of most wealth ownership. There is, of course, no productive value to gold, but the owners of this wealth do not care about that. What is of concern to them is the preservation of their status, indicated by wealth, and that is what motivates this decision.

Fifth, this does very clearly indicate a capacity to tax wealth more: if the wealthy cannot put their wealth to productive use then they might as well pay tax with it.

Sixth, also be worried about the spillovers. When gold hits peak values other markets being to fall. When the stock market falls the banking, life assurance and pension sectors may all be in trouble. Peak gold prices are never a sign that things are going well.

Seventh, worry. That is the right reaction.

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