We’re thrilled gold is falling

The price of gold is falling, and that's just fine for two good reasons. Merryn Somerset Webb explains.

A mildly rude message arrives from a reader criticising our stance on gold. "Ha, ha," he says, of the price falling below $1,100 an ounce before going on to forecast that I will soon be suggesting that all readers "buy gold at new lower prices". I hate to find I am quite that predictable, but that is actually exactly what I am going to do.

We are thrilled with the falling price of gold. There's two reasons for that. The first is that we don't hold gold as an investment any more. We hold it as insurance (we have done since 2011). And who doesn't want the price of their insurance to go down? Good news indeed if we feel like buying more.

The second reason is that there is a faint (very, very faint) chance that gold is going down for the right reason. Central bankers have got monetary policy 100% right. They've reflated our economies, created an environment where debt doesn't matter, found a way to make sure that all these years of money printing never comes back to bite us as inflation, and are well on the way to normalising interest rates. If that turns out to be the case and clearly a good many people think it is you will find great joy in the MoneyWeek office.

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We run a business that relies on people being able to save and invest and we all own assets too: I might have more actual cash in my self-invested personal pension (Sipp) and individual savings account (Isa) than most people, but I'm up to my ears in equities and property too. If all is well in the world and the prices of all my other assets just keep going up as a result gold can go to zero and I'll still be a very happy woman.

But here's the thing. I really don't thinkthat we can say, hand on heart, that it is.The problem that we had in 2009 thatof too much debt remains with us today. Just bigger. We have, as hedge-fund manager Jonathan Ruffer puts it, "an unresolved debt crisis as a chronic deflationary backdrop".

To combat that (or at least make everyone forget it exists) we have cheap money and new money and their consequences (bubbles and volatility). Gold prefers "instability and weakness" to most other things. If you think the next decade will bring none of that, then don't bother holding insurance against it. If you suspect, as we do, that it might, and you don't already, then buy some insurance and be pleased it is cheap.

If you are dithering, you might want to read Bernard Connolly's views (or reread our 2013 interview with him) and look at Douglas Carswell's thoughts. Finally, if that makes you depressed about the West, you might turn to our cover story. In it, Matthew Partridge explains why, as we are papering over our economic cracks with quantitative easing (QE), Africa might actually be "getting its house in order".

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.