Gold prices are telling us that monetary policy is too tight – or maybe not

Over the last week commodity prices has dropped quite a bit – and especially the much watched gold price has been quite a bit under pressure.

A lot of the alarmists who seem to be suffering from permanent inflation paranoia have pointed to gold prices as a good (the best?) indicator for further inflation. Now gold prices are dropping sharply (in fact much in the same manner as prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008). So shouldn’t the inflation alarmists now come out as deflation alarmists? Of course they should – at least if they want to be consistent.

While I certainly agree that market prices – including that of commodity prices – give us a lot of information about the stance of monetary policy (remember money matters and markets matter) I would also argue never just to look at one market price. So if a numbers of market indicators of monetary policy is pointing in the same direction then we can safely conclude that monetary policy is becoming tighter or looser, but one or two more or less random prices will not tell us that.

All prices – including the price of gold – is determined by supply and demand. By (just) observing the drop in gold prices we can not say whether it is driven by a shift in demand for gold or a shift in the supply of gold. Furthermore, if it indeed is driven by a drop in demand we can not say that this is a result of a drop in only the demand for gold or a general drop in overall demand (monetary tightening).

So while there is no doubt that the move in gold prices is telling us something and surely indicating that monetary conditions might be tightening further I would like to warn against drawing to clear conclusions from this drop in gold prices.

I hope the inflation alarmists will think in the same way once and if gold prices again start to rise.





Gold, France and book recommendations

Can you recommend a book that you haven’t read yet? I am not sure, but I will do it anyway. I believe we can learn a lot from the Great Depression and I am especially preoccupied with the international monetary consequences and causes of the Great Depression.

An issue that especially have come to my attention is the hoarding of gold by central bank prior and during the Great Depression and here especially France’s hoarding of gold is interesting and have already blogged about Douglas Irwin’s excellent paper “Did France Cause the Great Depression?”

However, both Scott Sumner and Douglas Irwin have recommend to me that I should read H. Clark Johnson’s book “Gold, France and the Great Depression”. I don’t want to disappoint Scott and Doug – after all they are both big heroes of mine so I better start reading, but I haven’t been able to find the time yet – especially since taking up blogging. Between the day-job and an active family life reading is something I do at very odd hours. That said, I know I will have to read this book. The parts of it I have already read is very interesting and well-written so it is only time that have kept me from reading the book.

Anyway, what I really what to ask my readers is the following: What books have had the biggest influence on your thinking about monetary theory and monetary history? I would love to be able to make a top ten list of monetary must-read books for the readers of this blog. So please give me your input. I will keep asking this question until I got at least 10 books. If you don’t want to put your name out here in the comment section drop me a mail instead:

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