Is gold money?
It’s become a tireless debate: goldbugs seem to cling to the shiny yellow metal with a religious fervor not usually displayed by anyone toward other asset classes, and it’s been known to frustrate some who don’t share their views.
Gold often gets lumped in to investment forecasts with other “commodities” – real, consumable things like oil or food.
But Deutsche Bank analysts Daniel Brebner and Xiao Fu say gold is seriously misunderstood, and in a new report – wherein they update their gold target to $2000/oz sometime in the first half of 2013 – they explain that “gold is not really a commodity at all.”
The undisputable evidence for the case that gold is money, according to the Deutsche Bank analysts:
While it is included in the commodities basket it is in fact a medium of exchange and one that is officially recognised (if not publically used as such). We see gold as an officially recognised form of money for one primary reason: it is widely held by most of the world’s larger central banks as a component of reserves.
That’s their take. But there’s more – the analysts differentiate between “good money” (gold) and “bad money” (fiat paper currency):
We would go further however, and argue that gold could be characterised as ‘good’ money as opposed to ‘bad’ money which would be represented by many of today’s fiat currencies. In describing gold as such we refer to Gresham’s Law – when a government overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money (good) will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money (bad) will flood into circulation.
What’s interesting is that all of the arguments against gold propogated by the anti-goldbugs – that it’s not really a consumption good, that it serves no industrial purpose, etc. – are all the exact reasons why Brebner and Xiao call gold “good money.”
The analysts elaborate on this point in the report:
In our view the ideal medium of exchange must balance the paradox of representing value while having little intrinsic value itself. There are very few media which can do this. Fiat currencies physically have no use other than that which is prescribed to them by government and accepted by the public. That fiat currencies cost little to produce is of a secondary concern and we believe, quite irrelevant to the primary purpose.
Gold is neither production good nor consumption good. Jewellery we see as a form of storage or hoarding (the people of Portugal have all but exhausted their personal gold stores – hoarded in the form of jewellery – having converted them to survive the crisis). If gold did have a meaningful commercial use we believe that it would make the metal less attractive as a medium of exchange as the value of the metal in whatever market it was used in could periodically interfere with its medium-of-exchange role…
Other characteristics are important of course in fulfilling the requirements for ‘good’ money: indestructibility, divisibility, transportability and universal acceptability.