The Dollar is Going Up

Let’s take a look at a few graphs of the dollar, from Feb 1, 2013 through Friday May 17, 2013. Yes, I said graphs of the dollar. I’ve priced the dollar in gold first (of course), then silver, the euro, and even the yen. The pattern is obvious. The dollar is going up.







I did not show copper, lumber, or wheat though they show the same trend. These commodities are not money, of course – click to enlarge.



My point is simple. It’s not gold that is going anywhere. In past articles, I’ve used the analogy of measuring a steel ruler using rubber bands. Using the dollar to measure gold is like that. In this article I show that it’s not just gold, but silver, other currencies, and commodities. The dollar is rising no matter how we measure it.

The question not to ask is: “How are they manipulating gold?” The question is: “Why is the dollar rising?”

To answer that, we first have to understand why the dollar had been going down. Most would say that it’s because the Fed has been “printing” and increasing the quantity of dollars. If that is so, then why would the dollar ever rise, as it has before (e.g. in the 1980’s), and as it is doing now? The Fed cannot and does not “un-print” dollars. This stock explanation is not satisfactory.

In one word, the answer is: arbitrage.

Let’s take a step back and look at the Treasury bond. The government pays for net expenses above tax revenues by borrowing. To borrow money, the Department of the Treasury sells bonds. This is an important aspect of our current form of government, as voters have demanded far more government expenditures than they are willing or able to pay for via taxes. In this aspect, the Treasury bond is a tool of fiscal policy, or spending, and cash flow to pay for it.

There is another aspect to the Treasury bond. It is the key asset of our monetary system. It is the asset on the Fed’s balance sheet (increasingly, post 2008, there are also mortgage bonds) to back its liabilities. The liability of the Fed is the Federal Reserve Note, commonly called the dollar. The Treasury bond is also a significant backing for the liabilities of commercial banks, pension funds, annuities, and insurance funds. Finally, the Treasury bond is used as collateral to enable borrowing.




The monetary system today is entirely based on credit, and the Treasury bond is the base of it. The peculiar characteristic, one could even say the shabby little secret, is that the Treasury bond is payable in dollars but the dollar is the liability of the Fed which is backed by the asset of the Fed which is … the Treasury bond. It’s circular and self-referential.



People often use the shorthand of saying that the Fed is “printing” dollars. It is actually borrowing them into existence and lending them. It is true that there is no actual lender. The Fed has sole discretion to create these dollars, unlike any normal bank, that must persuade a saver to deposit his capital in the bank. The Fed’s expansion of credit involves no saver. The Fed’s credit is counterfeit.[1]

The dollars appear ex nihilo at the Fed, and they use them to buy an asset, basically a bond, or to otherwise lend. Thus the Fed creates both a liability and an asset in this process. If the value of its assets should ever fall significantly, the market will not accept the Fed’s liability—the dollar—at face value. When gold owners refuse to bid on the dollar, the dollar will collapse.

Let’s get back to arbitrage. If a bank borrows money from the Fed, they will use it to buy an asset or lend it to a third party who will. This is an arbitrage. The short leg is the loan from the Fed, and the long leg is the asset purchased. As with all arbitrages, it will act as a force to pull the two values towards one another. Market price is always pulled down by the short leg, and pushed up by the long leg.

In the case of all borrowing from the Fed, the short leg is the dollar itself. I define arbitrage as the act of straddling a spread in the markets.[2] The arbitrager is often trying to profit from the interest rate spread directly, as in borrowing from the Fed at the discount rate and buying a Treasury bond that offers a higher yield.

Another strategy is to try to profit from a change in the spread, as in borrowing dollars to buy gold. In this case, if the dollar price falls, this will be a profitable trade. This is a weaker arbitrage than buying a bond, as gold does not have a yield.

As I noted above, the very act of arbitrage pulls down the price of the short leg and in the case of borrowing from the Fed the short leg is always the dollar. Whether a bank borrows dollars to buy Euros and from there to buy Greek government bonds; whether it lends to a hedge fund to buy gold; or whether it lends to a consumer to buy a home, the dollar is pulled down. On the other side of the trade, these assets are pushed up.

This, rather than the rising quantity of dollars, explains the falling value of the dollar. And now, recently, the dollar has been rising. The logical explanation is that these trades are being unwound, either voluntarily or under duress. My definition of deflation is a forcible contraction of credit. It is not the shrinking number of dollars (if the number is even shrinking). It is the closing of innumerable positions, by the opposite arbitrage. Previously it was sell dollar / buy asset. Now it is buy dollar / sell asset.

Gold is the most liquid asset. Its bid-ask spread does not widen much when large quantities are sold on the bid or bought at the offer. In contrast, the bid in other assets can drop precipitously in times of crisis. They are hardest to liquidate precisely at the time when one must sell. In some extreme cases, the bid can be withdrawn altogether. Though the spread does not widen in gold, heavy selling does push down the bid on gold. Market makers will then pull down the offer to maintain a consistent spread.

Being the most liquid, gold is the most sensitive. It is the first asset,  the “go to” asset to sell when a balance sheet is under stress. Gold therefore has the least lag in response to a change in the monetary system. Compare to real estate, where due diligence alone could take weeks or months.  Additional inertia comes from how properties are valued: by looking at recent comparable deals. Real estate would not be the first asset that a bank or fund would want to sell, due to several factors including long closing time, wide bid-ask spread, and high costs to sell such as sales commissions and attorneys. In real estate, there are no market makers. The offer can remain high even with the bid plunging, as the typical holder of real estate is not willing to sell at a loss and holds out for a number that covers all costs and fees and allows an exit at a profit.

Equities are usually liquid, closer to gold than to real estate in this regard. However, for the past few years, there have been many flash crashes. In a flash crash, the bid drops to $0.01 for a brief moment, and typically at least one market sell order is filled far below the “normal” price for the stock. These flash crashes prove that there are serious problems, that there are structural cracks beneath the surface.

An important principle to keep in mind is that in times of stress or crisis, it is always the bid and never the offer that is withdrawn. While there have been a few flash smashes (an amusing term) it is not a coincidence that these are vastly outnumbered by the flash crashes. This is because stress and crisis always come with a need for liquidity to pay debts that cannot be rolled over, margin calls, or to be flexible and agile. In bad times, people prefer to own a more marketable asset compared to one that is less marketable. They especially prefer to own the asset that is the unit of account for their balance sheet.

By definition, there is no risk to holding dollars if your balance sheet is denominated in dollars, and your liabilities are in dollars. This is the reason for the so-called “flight to safety” for the “risk-off asset”. You are not making, nor losing, money when you hold dollars. On gold denominated books, holding dollars is quite risky, of course.

Going back to the falling dollar, as the interest rate falls the discount factor used for an enterprise’s future earnings also falls. The same $1 in earnings in 2023 is worth more at a discount of 3% annually vs. 6% ($0.74 vs. $0.56). The result is rising stock prices.

In addition, the “animal spirits” of John Maynard Keynes have been set loose. Most people hold the false theory about the quantity of money and its impact on the price of everything, and it is quite popular to believe that this means stock prices can only rise. Proponents of this theory should look at Japan. In any case, deprived of other means of obtaining a yield (i.e. in the bond market), they must do something. People know the dollar is falling, though they attempt to measure it by looking at the rate by which consumer prices, measured in dollars, rise. They should be looking at the rate at which the dollar, measured in gold, is falling.

Right now, everyone is on the same side of the trade: long equities. This is dangerous because when it reverses, the market may not find a bid for quite a distance down. In a normal market, it is the short sellers who make the bid. By the indications I can see, those who have attempted to short this market have capitulated by now.

In Part II (free registration required), we consider why stocks are rising in this depressed economy, and look at the abyss we are now rapidly approaching.



[1] My definition of inflation is an expansion of counterfeit credit, discussed in this paper:

[2] I define and discuss in my dissertation: A Free Market for Goods, Services, and Money


Charts by: Monetary Metals


Dr. Keith Weiner (keith at monetary dash metals dot com) is the president of the Gold Standard Institute USA, and CEO of Monetary Metals.  Keith is a leading authority in the areas of gold, money, and credit and has made important contributions to the development of trading techniques founded upon the analysis of bid-ask spreads.  Keith is a sought after speaker and regularly writes on economics.  He is an Objectivist, and has his PhD from the New Austrian School of Economics.  He lives with his wife near Phoenix, Arizona.






Emigrate While You Can... Learn More




Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.


Bitcoin address: 12vB2LeWQNjWh59tyfWw23ySqJ9kTfJifA


Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • The Capital Structure as a Mirror of the Bubble Era
      Effects of Monetary Pumping on the Real World As long time readers know, we are looking at the economy through the lens of Austrian capital and monetary theory (see here for a backgrounder on capital theory and the production structure). In a nutshell: Monetary pumping falsifies interest rate signals by pushing gross market rates below the rate that reflects society-wide time preferences; this distorts relative prices in the economy and sets a boom into motion – which is characterized by...
  • Full Faith and Credit in Counterfeit Money
      A Useful Public Service There are nooks and corners in every city where talk is cheap and scandal is honorable.  The Alley, in Downtown Los Angeles, is a magical place where shrewd entrepreneurs, shameless salesmen, and downright hucksters coexist in symbiotic disharmony.  Fakes, fugazis, and knock-offs galore, pack the roll-up storefronts with sparkle and shimmer.   The Alley in LA – in places such as this, consumers are as a rule well served by applying a little bit of...
  • How to Get Ahead in Today’s Economy
      “Literally On Fire” This week brought forward more evidence that we are living in a fabricated world. The popular story-line presents a world of pure awesomeness. The common experience, however,  falls grossly short.   There are many degrees of awesomeness, up to total awesomeness – which is where we are these days, in the age of total awesomeness, just a short skip away from the Nirvana era. What is Nirvana, you may wonder? We only know for sure that Nirvana is what...
  • US Money Supply Growth Jumps in March , Bank Credit Growth Stalls
      A Movie We Have Seen Before – Repatriation Effect? There was a sizable increase in the year-on-year growth rate of the true US money supply TMS-2 between February and March. Note that you would not notice this when looking at the official broad monetary aggregate M2, because the component of TMS-2 responsible for the jump is not included in M2. Let us begin by looking at a chart of the TMS-2 growth rate and its 12-month moving average.   The y/y growth rate of TMS-2...
  • Gold and Gold Stocks – Conundrum Alert
      Moribund Meandering Earlier this week, the USD gold price was pushed rather unceremoniously off its perch above the $1300 level, where it had been comfortably ensconced all year after its usual seasonal rally around the turn of the year. For a while it seemed as though the $1,300 level may actually hold, but persistent US dollar strength nixed that idea. Previously many observers (too many?) expected gold to finally break out from its lengthy consolidation pattern, but evidently the...
  • Fear and Longing - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Waiting for Permanent Backwardation  The price of gold dropped 9 bucks, while that of silver rose 3 cents. Readers often ask us if permanent backwardation (when gold withdraws its bid on the dollar) is still coming. We say it is certain (unless we can avert it by offering interest on gold at large scale). They ask is it imminent, and we think this is with a mixture of fear and longing for a higher gold price.   Lettuce hope this treasure is not cursed... but it probably is....
  • Scorn and Reverence - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Shill Alarm One well-known commentator this week opined about the US health care industry:   “...the system is designed the churn and burn... to push people through the clinics as quickly as possible. The standard of care now is to prescribe some medication (usually antibiotics) and send people on their way without taking the time to conduct a comprehensive examination.”   From the annals of modern health care... [PT]   Nope. That is not the standard...
  • Global Turn-of-the-Month Effect – An Update
      In Other Global Markets the “Turn-of-the-Month” Effect Generates Even Bigger Returns than in the US The “turn-of-the-month” effect is one of the most fascinating stock market phenomena. It describes the fact that price gains primarily tend to occur around the turn of the month. By contrast, the rest of the time around the middle of the month is typically far less profitable for investors.   Good vs. bad seasonal timing...   [PT]   The effect has been studied...
  • Tales from “The Master of Disaster”
      Tightening Credit Markets Daylight extends a little further into the evening with each passing day.  Moods ease.  Contentment rises.  These are some of the many delights the northern hemisphere has to offer this time of year. As summer approaches, and dispositions loosen, something less amiable is happening.  Credit markets are tightening.  The yield on the 10-Year Treasury note has exceeded 3.12 percent.   A change in pace: yields are actually going somewhere. There is...
  • Is Political Decentralization the Only Hope for Western Civilization?
      Voting with their Feet A couple of recent articles have once more made the case, at least implicitly, for political decentralization as the only viable path which will begin to solve the seemingly insurmountable political, economic, and social crises which the Western world now faces.   Fracture lines – tax and regulatory competition allows people to “vote with their feet” - and they certainly do. [PT]   In the last few months, over 3,000 millionaires have...
  • Why the Fundamental Gold Price Rose - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Gold Lending and Arbitrage There was no rise in the purchasing power of gold this week. The price of gold fell $22, and that of silver $0.19. One question that comes up is why is the fundamental price so far above the market price? Starting in January, the fundamental price began to move up sharply, and the move sustained through the end of April.   1-month LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate – the rate at which banks lend euro-dollars to each other). LIBOR and GOFO...

Support Acting Man

Item Guides


The Review Insider

Dog Blow

Austrian Theory and Investment



THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

Realtime Charts


Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from]



Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from]



Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from]



Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from]



USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from]


Mish Talk

Buy Silver Now!
Buy Gold Now!

Diary of a Rogue Economist