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The news regarding the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) implementing their plan to create a new international currency has gained momentum. The currency will be backed by gold, as announced on July 7, 2023.
In a recent meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, the foreign ministers of the BRICS countries, along with representatives from more than twelve nations, emphasized their intention to establish an international trading currency.
This undertaking, involving countries representing around 40 percent of the global population and a combined economic output comparable to that of the United States, has the potential for significant consequences.
Additionally, several other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iran, Algeria, Argentina, and Kazakhstan, have expressed interest in joining the BRICS alliance.
The main objective of the BRICS countries is to decrease their economic and political reliance on the US dollar, challenging the influence of the US dollar on the global stage. They aim to introduce a new international currency for commercial and financial transactions, replacing the US dollar as the standard means of transaction.
The motivation behind this initiative is clear. The US administration has frequently used the US dollar as a “geopolitical weapon” and engaged in what some refer to as “financial warfare.” Through sanctions and cutting off access to the US dollar capital market and international payment systems, the US has exerted control over enemy nations.
These actions have raised concerns in many non-Western countries, highlighting the political risks associated with holding US dollars. As a result, these countries have started restructuring their foreign reserves by reducing US dollar holdings, diversifying into other currencies, and increasing their gold reserves.
According to the search results, the latest data on gold holdings of BRICS member countries is as follows:
- The BRICS countries have a combined gold reserves of 5,452.7 tons as of the first quarter of 2023, with a market value of around 350 billion US dollars.
- China has quadrupled its gold reserves over the past twenty years, and Russia announced in March 2022 that they were linking the ruble to gold at five thousand rubles per gram and requiring payment for their exports in rubles.
- Several sources suggest that the BRICS countries are exploring the possibility of a gold-backed currency, with a more specific framework potentially being announced during the BRICS summit in South Africa.
- In addition, there have been reports of the BRICS countries mulling the formation of a single gold trade system.
- While the BRICS countries are the second largest owner of gold reserves after the US, it’s unclear whether they have increased their gold holdings in recent years or if there have been any significant changes in their gold reserves.
While specific details about the structure of the new BRICS currency are not yet available, it is worth speculating on potential scenarios. One possibility is the establishment of a new bank, the “BRICS Bank,” funded by gold deposits from central banks within the BRICS alliance. The physical gold holdings would be recorded as assets on the balance sheet of the BRICS Bank and could be denominated as “BRICS gold,” with each unit representing one gram of physical gold.
The BRICS Bank could then provide loans denominated in BRICS gold to exporters and importers. These loans would be funded through credit contracts with holders of BRICS gold, who would transfer their deposits to the BRICS Bank for a designated period in exchange for interest. The BRICS Bank could also accept additional gold deposits from international investors, allowing them to hold interest-bearing BRICS gold deposits.
BRICS gold could potentially serve as international money, an internationally recognized unit of account in global trade and financial transactions. This new de facto gold currency could exist solely as an accounting unit and be redeemable on demand, without the need for physical minting.
However, the successful transition to using BRICS gold as an international trade and transaction currency would likely have significant consequences:
- The demand for gold would likely increase sharply, impacting gold prices not only in US dollars and euros but also in the currencies of the BRICS countries.
- The surge in gold prices would devalue the purchasing power of official currencies, including the US dollar and the BRICS currencies. Prices of goods denominated in these currencies would likely skyrocket, leading to a depreciation of all existing fiat currencies.
- The BRICS countries would accumulate gold reserves, particularly if they maintain trade surpluses. They would be the primary beneficiaries of this currency shift, while countries with trade deficits, particularly the US, would face losses.
The aforementioned points demonstrate the potential disruptive nature of the proposal to create a new international trading currency backed by gold.
The actions taken by the BRICS countries could have a profound impact on the global economic and financial framework, resembling a landslide in terms of changes.
It remains intriguing to observe the approach that the BRICS nations will adopt during their meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, scheduled for August 22-24.
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Many other lenders are also sitting on unrealized losses caused by the rapid rise in interest rates.
Nearly 200 American banks face similar risks to those that led to the implosion and bankruptcy of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), according to a paper posted this week to the Social Science Research Network. SVB, a major US lender focused on the tech and startup sectors, was shut down by regulators last week after massive deposit outflows.
In the study, four economists from prominent US universities estimated how much market value the assets held by US banks have lost due to recent interest rate hikes.
“From March 07, 2022, to March 6, 2023, the federal funds rate rose sharply from 0.08% to 4.57%, and this increase was accompanied by quantitative tightening. As a result, long-dated assets similar to those held on bank balance sheets experienced significant value declines during the same period,” they wrote.
Although higher interest rates can benefit banks by allowing them to lend at a higher rate, many US banks have parked a significant portion of their excess cash in US Treasuries. This was done when interest rates were at near-zero levels. The value of these bonds has now greatly decreased due to the rate hikes – investors can now simply purchase newly issued bonds that offer a higher interest rate. The decline in the banks’ portfolios is unrealized, meaning the value of the securities has declined but the loss is still only ‘on paper’.
The problem arises when customers request their deposits back and banks are forced to sell their securities – at a significant loss – in order to pay depositors back. In extreme cases, this can lead to a bank becoming insolvent, or as happened with Silicon Valley Bank, the loss of confidence can trigger a bank run.
The report’s authors looked into how the amount of US lenders’ funding that comes from uninsured deposits: the greater the share, the more susceptible a bank is to a run. For instance, at SVB, where 92.5% of deposits were uninsured, the deposit outflow caused the bank to collapse in a span of only two days. The authors of the study calculated that 186 American banks do not have enough assets to pay all customers if even half of uninsured depositors decide to withdraw their money.
“Our calculations suggest these banks are certainly at a potential risk of a run, absent other government intervention or recapitalization… Overall, these calculations suggest that recent declines in bank asset values very significantly increased the fragility of the US banking system to uninsured depositor runs,” the economists concluded, noting that the number of banks at risk could be “significantly” larger if “uninsured deposit withdrawals cause even small fire sales.”
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