The US dollar has been dominant as the global reserve currency for a century. It was backed by gold, and the phrase, “good as gold,” had a literal meaning. Each dollar bill was worth its equivalent in physical gold. This made the dollar the world’s most respected and accepted currency.
These days, the dollar is joined by the euro and the yen as accepted currencies. No longer dominant, the dollar is losing its global position. Can it survive?
Early in the 20th century, the US was the most powerful nation on earth, and the dollar reflected that power. Our gold reserves were larger than those of any other country, thus setting the standard worldwide. The US dollar was, indeed, good as gold.
By the late 1940’s, the Federal Reserve started to print money that wasn’t back by gold. Rising inflation only encouraged the government to print more money without the gold reserves to back it. Gold prices rose to such new heights, all US currency stopped being back by any gold. The powerful US dollar began to turn into monopoly money. Gold price tripled as the dollar continued to lose value.
That’s how the Petrodollar was born, a political move more than a smart currency move. With the US importing more oil than anyone else from Saudi Arabia, then Secretary of State Kissinger arranged to have the price of oil based on the US dollar. All countries were to pay for oil with dollars.
By 2017, Russian replaced Saudi Arabia as the world’s major oil producer, with China importing more oil than anyone else. The characters in the oil game have changed. And the new players want to back the price of oil with the Yuan. The Chinese and Russians have been buying physical gold for several years and intend to use it to back the Yuan. The days of the dollar supremacy may be at an end as the power and price of gold continue to rise.
Other countries are now faced with a choice: whether to keep and to add to their gold reserves or hold on to the dollar, which is backed with $123 trillion in debt.
China and Russia aren’t the only countries increasing their gold reserves. The Hungarian National Bank (“MNB”) has 3 tons of gold, valued at $130 million, stored in London. It has decided to return this gold to Hungary. Other countries are following Hungary’s example as they restore and replenish their gold reserves. Germany’s Bundesbank has recalled $28 billion of their gold reserves formerly stored in New York and Paris.
Is the US getting nervous? US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made an almost unprecedented and very public visit to Fort Knox, where $200 billion worth of gold is stored. “It’s still here,” Mnuchin joked. Or was he simply relieved? Gold has is becoming more important globally than ever. We may see another “gold rush,” and that does not bode well for the US dollar.