4.30.13 – Texas wants its gold back!

Texas wants its gold back! Wait, what?

Posted by Neil Irwin on March 26, 2013 at 10:58 am

Texas has generally been at the front of the pack of a certain variety of uber-hawkish, vaguely paranoid monetary policy talk over the last few years. Recall it was the state’s governor, Rick Perry, who while running for president strongly suggested that Ben Bernanke would be committing treason should the Federal Reserve print any more money.

But now some in the state, including Perry, are looking to put their money where their mouths are. Literally.

Gold at the New York Fed. (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

Gold at the New York Fed. (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

 

Perry and some in the Texas legislature want to bring the roughly $1 billion worth gold held by the state university system’s investment fund onto Texas soil, rather than in its current resting pace in a vault in New York.

“If we own it,” Perry said on Glenn Beck’s radio show last week, according to the Texas Tribune. “I will suggest to you that that’s not someone else’s determination whether we can take possession of it back or not.”

Here’s the thing. Perry’s push to relocate the state’s gold to a newly created “Texas Bullion Depository,” in a strange way makes perfect sense. It lays bare the rationale for investing in the yellow metal to begin with, and is an excellent illustration of the strange role that gold plays in a modern economy and investors’ psyches.

Some basics: People speak of gold as an “investment,” but that’s not quite right. When you buy shares of a company’s stock , you are buying a claim to the future profits of that company. When you buy a Treasury bond, the U.S. government is pledging to pay you a certain amount of money on a certain schedule in the future. But when you buy a 1 ounce ingot of gold, no matter how long you will hold it, you still have exactly one ounce of gold.

In fact, if anything, gold has a negative yield. Because you have to store that gold somewhere; if you keep it in your house, there is a risk of theft. If you keep it in a safe deposit box at the bank, you will have some fee.

If Texas moves its gold back home, it will deal with this in a very real way: Whatever it costs to build, maintain, and guard a facility secure enough to stash $1 billion of gold in will essentially subtract from whatever investment return the holdings offer. (The lawmaker advocating the plan pointed out that only about 20 square feet of space would be needed for the gold as evidence that the cost shouldn’t be high, which kind of misses the point. It’s not the real estate cost that is expensive, it’s the technology and manpower needed to prevent the heist of the millennium).

Read the rest of this article at its source HERE.

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