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Urgent Stock Market Message

Yuan Gold Contacts a Step toward Reserve Currency

Currencies / China Currency Yuan Oct 23, 2011 - 02:10 AM GMT

By: Dr_Jeff_Lewis


On Monday, the first gold contracts denominated in the Chinese Renminbi (also known informally as “yuan”) came to the Hong Kong market.  Analysts have been quick to note the implications of a yuan-denominated contract, realizing that the new contract could drive nearly three times as much demand as the dollar-denominated contract.

Looking at the yuan product from the macro-view, a move into gold is about more than just gold—it’s about reserve currency status. 

Dollar’s Monopoly

The US Dollar has a monopoly as the world’s reserve currency.  The size and scope of the US economy and financial markets, combined with the relative stability of the political climate, made the US dollar a preferred currency for international trade. 

However, the reason most cite for dollar dominance isn’t the United States’ role in international commerce, but its monopoly on a single product—oil.  In an agreement with Saudi Arabia, the United States effectively tied the global oil market to the US dollar.  No other currencies could be used to purchase “black gold,” the driver of modern industry.

Signs of Defiance

As China grows, it naturally wants to extend its reach as an economic powerhouse.  Recently, in a move that rattled those who see the dollar as the only reserve currency, China agreed to trade oil and energy products with Russia in their own currencies.  This should have been seen as a warning sign, a move that would lead to new policies to make the Renminbi a global currency for commerce.

Relative to other commodities, gold is relatively unimportant to commerce.  Most of us can keep our cars running and the factories on without gold. 

Renminbi Goes Global

Gold is a very important commodity in the realm of modern finance, however.  In allowing the markets to buy gold denominated in the Chinese currency, investors can essentially exchange yuan directly for other currencies, using gold as a proxy.

That is to say investors now have a binary trade to buy and sell Renminbi.  Buying the Renminbi requires holding a short gold position in yuan and a long gold position denominated in another currency.   Once the gold is netted out by equal short and long positions, investors have only foreign currency exposure.

Never before has it been so easy for investors to buy and sell Chinese Renminbi directly or indirectly.  Investors have long sought to play the rising Renminbi, but Chinese capital controls kept the currency as a primarily local institution.  Now it’s available to most everyone, and with two simple transactions, enough Renminbi can be purchased, provided there’s enough gold available to back each trade.

And so this is where the Chinese realize the importance of gold.  Allowing the yuan-denominated contract to trade will only increase investor appetite for other yuan-denominated commodities.  While oil contracts may be a few months or years away, the reality is that the Chinese are positioned to make the Renminbi a world reserve currency.  It’s only a matter of a few new commodity contracts to get the world’s attention.

Ian Fletcher is the author of the new book Free Trade Doesn’t Work: What Should Replace It and Why (USBIC, $24.95)  He is an Adjunct Fellow at the San Francisco office of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, a Washington think tank founded in 1933.  He was previously an economist in private practice, mostly serving hedge funds and private equity firms. He may be contacted at

© 2011 Copyright  Ian Fletcher - All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

© 2005-2018 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


23 Oct 11, 10:34
putting on a yuan usd spread

While technically possible to do I don't see how anyone would sell short gold/Yuan in Hong Kong and buy Gold/usd on the Comex. The two markets are never open at the same time. Being a spread trader myself it would be something I wouldn't risky to have to wait until the next market opens to put on the other half of the spread. But that said, there are probably traders who will take the risk but I wouldn't be one of them. Your point is valid though and the Yuan denominated trading is going to continue to grow and pull interest away from the USD. And of course this is all bullish for gold!

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