Why is the price of gold not soaring?

Here’s why it should be.

Yesterday the Bank of Japan, (BOJ), announced unprecedented steps, (for them), aimed explicitly at the creation of inflation, with a stated target of 2 per cent in two years. The new boys at the BOJ helm, (who were carefully hand-picked to ensure they would do this), used their first meeting to push through a raft of measures which more than sated even the market’s craving for action. This was heady stuff for central bankers, (especially Japanese ones, who for years have been notorious for under-delivery); they will aim to double the money supply to Yen 270 trn, (roughly USD 3 trn), in two years, almost doubling the amount of monthly bond purchases and lengthening the maximum permissible maturity to include 40-year bonds, increased the pace at which they will buy Exchange Traded Funds and Real Estate Investment Trusts, and even decided to ditch, (temporarily at first), its so-called ‘banknote’ rule, under which its total bond purchases were hitherto limited to the amount of Yen in circulation.

Not surprisingly these measures caused the yen to dive on the foreign exchange markets and Japanese 10-year government bond yields fell below 0.5 per cent. Only in Japan would investors be happy to buy these bonds, with that yield, 0.5 per cent per annum, when the government and the central bank is intent upon creating inflation of at least 2 per cent per annum-only in Japan because over 90 per cent of Japanese bond issuance is snapped up by domestic investors-individuals, pension funds, life insurance companies, government entities.

Will this continue happily forever? That depends on the degree of "success" which the BOJ’s policies enjoy. Japan Inc. had certainly better hope so, with interest rate payments already accounting for more than a quarter of government spending-even with interest rates at 0.5 per cent and lower for shorter maturities!

This is where gold should come into the picture - how can the world’s third largest economy embark on such an explicit inflationary policy without investors rushing to secure an inflation hedge by acquiring the age-old comfort of gold? One explanation is simply inertia; the market has endured nearly two decades of deflation in Japan and will take time to get worried about inflation there, secondly it will take time for Japanese liquidity to find its way into the global economy, but most importantly, the Cypriot and the North Korean crises loom large in investors’ minds and the only challenger to gold as a safe-haven is the US Dollar-hence an unstable equilibrium has formed with regard to the price of gold expressed in US Dollars.

If you believe that the Cypriot crisis will ultimately fade from memory and, pray God, North Korea is playing its old game of sabre-rattling to extort more aid, then someday soon gold will have its day and now is it great time to buy.

Photograph: Getty Images

Chairman of  Saxo Capital Markets Board

An Honours Graduate from Oxford University, Nick Beecroft has over 30 years of international trading experience within the financial industry, including senior Global Markets roles at Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Citibank. Nick was a member of the Bank of England's Foreign Exchange Joint Standing Committee.

More of his work can be found here.

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.