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When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Confiscate Gold


When circumstances turn abnormal, you can bet that strange prescriptions will follow.


On April 5, 1933, the following proclamation, Executive Order 6102, was issued by the President of the United States:

"By virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 5 (b) of the Act of October 6, 1917, as amended by Section 2 of the Act of March 9, 1933, entitled "An Act to provide relief in the existing national emergency in banking, and for other purposes," in which amendatory Act Congress declared that a serious emergency exists, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do declare that said national emergency still continues to exist and pursuant to said section do hereby prohibit the hoarding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States by individuals, partnerships, associations and corporations ..."

Even as Roosevelt was being inaugurated a month earlier, and continuing on into April, banks around the country were besieged by depositors desperate to withdraw their money and convert their currency into gold.

This was a national emergency. The President said so. And in order to stop the run on banks, and by extension the currency, In one fell swoop, Roosevelt outlawed the ownership of gold and mandated the following penalties which lasted until 1974:

"Section 9. Whoever willfully violates any provision of this Executive Order or of these regulations or of any rule, regulation or license issued thereunder may be fined not more than $10,000, or, if a natural person, may be imprisoned for not more than ten years, or both; and any officer, director, or agent of any corporation who knowingly participates in any such violation may be punished by a like fine, imprisonment, or both."

Well, that was that. Gold was now illegal, and anyone who held it or tried to use it faced certain imprisonment or fines.

But that was then: There's the preening sense among Americans today that such an act could never fly off a President's desk in this day and age; we believe we've come a long way since 1933. And yet, in a matter of 20 minutes last night, the President of the United States used the following words and phrases:

"We're in the midst of a serious financial crisis..."

"[O]ur entire economy is in danger..."

"[T]hese are not normal circumstances..."

"[M]ajor sectors of America's financial system are at risk of shutting down..."

"[S]afeguard the financial security of American workers..."

"The federal government also continues to enforce laws and regulations protecting your money..."

"[F]ailure jeopardizes the entire financial system..."

These words and phrases shouldn't be taken lightly. It is important to consider what the ramifications are when politicians begin to use words and phrases like these. "These are not normal circumstances." And when circumstances turn abnormal, you can bet that strange prescriptions will follow.

The chart below shows the price of gold, using front-month futures, versus the price action of the PHLX Gold and Silver Index (XAU). Not the spread that has developed recently between the price of the metal, which recently exceeded its August high, and the share price index, which has not. This relationship is mirrored in the largest component weightings of the XAU, producers and miners such as Barrick Gold (ABX), Newmont Mining (NEM) and Goldcorp. (GG).

Click to enlarge

This may be an indication that the recent price action in gold is related to its image as a safe haven and store of value - something worth considering as the US government debates a massive bailout proposal that has a high probability of pressuring the US dollar and potentially undermining its status as a global reserve currency.

If history is any guide, it should be kept in mind that those with a stake in maintaining the status quo are quickly gaining fiscal and monetary support.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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