Monday, January 14, 2008

Gold's glittering, and that's not a good thing

Needn't have expertise in economics to see that things aren't looking so good these days.
Proving by their presence the weakness of the $US were the many foreign shoppers who last month filled holiday-decorated aisles of America's high-end stores, snapping up luxury items that exchange rates have turned into bargain buys. Trouble's evident in every "PRICE REDUCED" banner plastered over a "For Sale" sign -- not to mention those vacated, unsaleable foreclosure houses in old inner cities and new exurbias. (See here, here, here) So too in the increased co-payments for workers lucky enough to have employer-supported health insurance, not to mention the increase in women, children, and men (at last count "[n]early 47 million Americans, or 16 percent of the population") who have no health insurance at all. There's the ever-higher cost of foodstuffs, fueled by the ever-higher cost of the fuel that brings them to market. And there's California, the state whose economy is larger than that of all but a handful of countries, where just-proposed budget cuts threaten "the state's ability to protect children, renters, workers and the elderly as well as California's wildlife and its land."
Now comes evidence of a global economic slide.
In an article entitled "L'or flambe et affirme son rôle de valeur refuge (Gold Catches Fire and Reaffirms Its Role As a Value Refuge)," Le Monde reports that the price of an ounce of gold has just reached record highs of $900.10 on the New York Exchange, $898 in Hong Kong, and $897.90 in London. That's a 32% increase in price during the course of 2007.
Behind the rise, according to Le Monde, is a host of global uncertainties, among them:
the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and fears spurred by the thought of Islamists gaining control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons; the degree to which the United States is bogged down in Iraq; fears of recession in the United States; crises in the banking system of Western countries and a crisis of liquidity; falling real estate prices; and tumbling stock exchange prices.
These are indicators of impending inflation, Le Monde writes. Buyers with the wherewithal to buy are turning to the traditional hedges against that inflation, gold and jewelry. So the costs of both are on the rise.
Sounds like all the more reason for the folks who do have the expertise to start working some economic magic.

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