Thursday, November 12, 2009

China sets plan to let currency move higher

China signalled it will allow its currency to appreciate against the U.S. dollar, bowing to international pressure days ahead of a visit from U.S. President Barack Obama.

The move to allow the yuan to rise against the greenback would provide much-needed relief to countries trying to compete against China's mighty export machine and put further downward pressure on an already battered U.S. dollar.

China's latest quarterly monetary policy report said its foreign exchange policy will now consider “capital flows and changes in major currencies,” indicating China will carefully expose the yuan's value to fluctuations in global markets.

The statement avoided the government's usual boilerplate language of keeping the yuan “basically stable at a reasonable and balanced level.”

China's trading partners have complained the government keeps the yuan at artificially low levels, providing an unfair price advantage for China's goods as they compete for market share around the world. Until now, China has largely ignored calls for greater currency flexibility.

The decision to allow the yuan to climb also points to the maturing of China's rapidly expanding economy, while giving its people and companies more purchasing power for goods and assets produced outside the country.

“China is exporting blood and sweat and importing copper and oil. Is that really good in the long term? You are sacrificing the local people's purchasing power in pursuing export growth,” said Na Liu, China analyst at Scotia Capital.

The rise in the yuan is expected to be gradual and is not likely to occur until next year. Still, China is likely to quickly draw increased capital flows into the country as international investors aim to benefit from an eventual rise in the currency and local assets. But that trend brings the risk of potential unsustainable bubbles in its real estate and stock markets.

Other Asian exporting countries such as South Korea, Singapore and Thailand, which should be able to compete better with China as the yuan appreciates, are likely to follow suit and let their currencies appreciate as well.

“A little gradual appreciation in the yuan will not naturally hurt China's exports because other Asian countries will follow,” Mr. Liu said.

China's currency has been pegged to the U.S. dollar since July of 2008 in an effort to shield exports from the global recession. But the latest economic data released Wednesday suggest a recovery is well under way in China. Industrial production rose 16.1 per cent in October, the most since March of 2008. Exports declined 13.8 per cent, the smallest drop recorded this year.

“It was inevitable,” Benjamin Reitzes, an economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns said of China's hint it will shift its foreign exchange policy.

“The reason they can do it now is because they see external demand from the global economy is improving,” he added.

Most G20 nations have been unhappy with China pegging the yuan to the U.S. dollar and many have publicly criticized the policy for exaggerating the trade imbalance between China and the United States. China revalued its currency in 2005, allowing the yuan to appreciate 21 per cent against the U.S. dollar before halting the rise in the middle of last year.

The latest Chinese announcement, coming just days before Mr. Obama is due to make his first visit to Beijing, is as much about politics as economics, experts said.

Charles Freeman, a former assistant U.S. trade representative for China, said the Chinese are willing to let the Americans get something to show the U.S. Congress they're working to defuse trade tensions. But “precipitous growth” in the value of the yuan is unlikely, he added.

“We're going back to the slow march that we had before China started really worrying about their own economic recovery,” said Mr. Freeman, who now holds the China chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“It's a cautious, go-slow approach. If their exports slow a lot and domestic demand weakens, the Chinese will slow appreciation of the yuan again.”

And any impact on Chinese exports or the U.S. trade deficit with China is likely to be small. Mr. Freeman pointed out that, as the yuan appreciated against the U.S. dollar and other currencies after 2005, China's current account surplus kept growing and the U.S. trade deficit continued to swell.

“The currency issue is a popular thing to talk about,” Mr. Freeman added. “But as far as the U.S., Canada and the rest of the developed world is concerned, it doesn't matter to us whether the products are assembled in China or Vietnam, we're still going to have a deficit with Asia.”

But others see more sinister motives in the Chinese move. By resuming a yuan peg to a basket of international currencies, the biggest winner is likely to be the euro, not the dollar, said Peter Morici, former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. “That makes it more difficult for the Americans to complain, and the Europeans less likely to help lobby the Chinese,” he said.

Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said China is caught in a “dollar trap.” It has as much as $1.6-trillion worth of U.S. dollar reserves and there are few options to diversify into other currencies. More worrying to them than a slightly higher yuan, he said, is the prospect of a more precipitous erosion in the value of the dollar, weighed down by U.S. inflation and swelling budget deficits. A falling dollar means China will take hefty losses on those reserves, Mr. Lardy pointed out.

U.S. Dollar Debasement on Track With Federal Reserve’s Plans

Over the last few months the dollar has dropped significantly against most other major currencies. The decline doesn’t benefit Americans in any way because as the currency depreciates it loses buying power which results in inflation. The last thing the country needs right now is a currency eroding in value considering we’re in the middle of a depression.

According to the president of the Dallas branch of the world’s most powerful private bank (The Federal Reserve) this is a good thing that Americans should embrace. We should all take his statement as a warning that hyperinflation is just around the corner. We should also prepare for it accordingly. In the following video Peter Schiff explains steps you can take to insulate yourself from the coming inflationary period.

Swedish Member Of Parliament: Leading Politicians Support 9/11 Truth Movement

Swedish Member Of Parliament: Leading Politicians Support 9/11 Truth Movement

Political leaders for 9/11 Truth growing in numbers

Steve Watson
Monday, Nov 9, 2009

A Swedish Member of Parliament has pledged support for a new investigation into the events of 9/11, adding that prominent political figures support the view that elements of the U.S. government were involved in staging the attacks.

An article headlined “The U.S. was part of the attack” in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, highlights comments made by MP Egon Frid of the country’s “Left Party”.

“The U.S. administration knew of the terrorist attack before and was a part of it,” Frid said in an interview with Swedish TV network TV4 on it’s “Kalla Facts” (Hard Facts) programme.

“My curiosity has once again led me in new ways and to top it all, I have new theories about what really happened 9/11″ Frid writes on his blog.

Frid, who was elected to parliament as a full member in 2006, also stated that he knows there are several leading politicians in Sweden who are interested in the Truth Movement’s message, but they will not go public with their views “because it is an impossible debate.”

Frid also revealed that he has joined the “Political Leaders For 9/11 Truth” group, to which other notables have pledged support, such as Andreas von Bülow, former German State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Defense, Yukihisa Fujita, Japanese Member of Parliament, Michael Meacher, Minister of the British Parliament, Cynthia McKinney, Jesse Ventura, and many other political luminaries from all corners of the globe.

The group was founded earlier this year, joining the growing ranks of professionals calling for a new independent investigation into 9/11, including the groups:

Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth
Firefighters for 9/11 Truth
Journalists and Other Media Professionals for 9/11 Truth
Lawyers for 9/11 Truth
Medical Professionals for 9/11 Truth
Pilots for 9/11 Truth
Religious Leaders for 9/11 Truth
Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice
Veterans for 9/11 Truth

Barack Obama Administration Continues US Military Global Dominance

Barack Obama Administration Continues US Military Global Dominance
in Featured Articles & Editorials
By Peter Phillips

The Barack Obama administration is continuing the neo-conservative agenda of US military domination of the world— albeit with perhaps a kinder-gentler face. While overt torture is now forbidden for the CIA and Pentagon, and symbolic gestures like the closing of the Guantanamo prison are in evidence, a unilateral military dominance policy, expanding military budget, and wars of occupation and aggression will likely continue unabated.

The military expansionists from within the Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, G. W. Bush administrations put into place solid support for increased military spending. Clinton’s model of supporting the US military industrial complex held steady defense spending and increased foreign weapons sales from 16% of global orders to over 63% by the end of his administration.

The neo-conservatives, who dominated the most recent Bush administration, amplified this trend of increased military spending. The neo-cons laid out their agenda for military global dominance in the 2000 Project for a New American Century (PNAC) report Rebuilding America’s Defenses. The report called for the protection of the American Homeland, the ability to wage simultaneous theater wars, to perform global constabulary roles, and to control space and cyberspace. The report claimed that in order to maintain a Pax Americana, potential rivals — such as China, Iran, Iraq, and North Korea — needed to be held in check. This military global dominance agenda required forward deployment of US forces worldwide and increasing defense/war spending well into the 21st century. The result was a doubling of the US military budget to over $700 billion in the last eight years. The US now spends as much on war/defense as the rest of the world combined, making Americans the highest war-tax payers in the world.

Barack Obama’s election brought a moment of hope for many. However, the Obama administration is not calling for decreased military spending, or a reversal of US military global dominance. Instead, Obama retained Robert Gates, thus making Obama the first president from an opposing party, in US history, to keep in place the outgoing administrations’ Secretary of Defense/War. Additionally, Obama is calling for an expanded war in Afghanistan and only minimal long-range reductions in Iraq.

The US military industrial complex is deeply embedded inside the Washington beltway. According to the most recent reports from, 151 members of Congress in 2006 had up to $195.5 million of their personal assets invested in defense companies.

Major defense contractors were seriously involved in the 2008 elections. Lockheed Martin gave $2,612,219 in total political campaign donations, with 49% to Democrats ($1,285,493) and 51% to Republicans ($1,325,159). Boeing gave $2,225,947 in 2008 with 58% going to Democrats, and General Dynamics provided $1,682,595 to both parties. Northrop Grumman spent over $20 million in 2008, hiring lobbyists to influence Congress, and Raytheon spent $6 million on lobbyists in the same period. In a revolving door appointment, Obama nominated Raytheon’s senior vice president for government operations and strategy, William Lynn, for the number two position in the Pentagon. Lynn was formally the Defense Department’s comptroller during the Clinton administration.

The International Monetary Fund’s prediction for global economic growth in 2009 is 0.5 percent—the worst since World War II. The United Nations’ International Labor Organization estimates that some 50 million workers will lose their jobs worldwide this year. There are an estimated 62,000 U.S. companies expected to close in 2009, and while official unemployment is at 7 percent in the US, when you add people no longer looking for jobs and part-time workers, joblessness is closer to 14 percent. The military-industrial-political elite are worried about the potential of increasing global insecurity. The answer inside the Obama Administration is to continue high defense/war spending to insure military control of both domestic and foreign instabilities.

The military, industrial, congressional, and administrative elite profit from defense spending, both financially and ideologically. Insider profit taking from pentagon spending is widespread in Washington. But perhaps more important is the belief that this global military machine is seen as necessary for the protection of US corporate interests and the American upper classes in an increasingly destabilized world. Given that belief, the Obama administration is unlikely to change the defense spending policies of the previous US administrations without significant disruptive pressure from anti-war activists and global empire resisters.

The Sorry State of Modern Economics

Since last year’s collapse of the banking system, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent to bail out some of the major players. Additionally, governments all over the world, and their central banks, have implemented huge stimulus programs to combat the consequences of the burst real estate bubble.

Economic history is being written right before our eyes. Hence, I refer to this episode as the largest economic experiment since the implementation of communism. And here’s what really frightens me: None of the experimenters saw this crisis coming, but all of them claim to know the remedy!

At the same time politicians and economists are very busy explaining what they deem to be the reasons for the economic malaise …

Speculators, hedge funds, greedy bankers, and lax regulators are said to be responsible. And a lot of talk about a market failure is being presented as the alleged root of this crisis.

Sure, hedge funds, bankers, and regulators certainly played a role. But their reckless behavior is but a symptom of what had been going wrong and was not the cause. And the latter proposition is plain wrong. Let me explain why …

This Crisis Is Not a Market Failure.
It’s a Monumental Policy Failure!

Irrational central bank  policies are the source of the current crisis.
Irrational central bank policies are the source of the current crisis.

By now, nobody — not even Greenspan or Bernanke — will deny that the U.S. housing market was a huge speculative bubble. And the bursting of this bubble triggered the banking problems and the recession.

So we have to look into what causes a speculative bubble to understand the real culprits of the current predicament. The answer is fairly straight forward: Expanding money supply and credit growth.

Since the central bank controls the money supply and credit growth, it’s obvious that the central bank is accountable for the evolution of bubbles and the consequences of their inescapable bursting.

You could easily conclude then, that an unsound monetary policy caused the real estate bubble. That means that the same unsound monetary policy is also accountable for the sad and predictable consequences of the bubble bursting.

Unfortunately we’re not hearing or reading much about this obvious truth. Instead, fairytales about market failure are dominating the media. And an old and cynical policy joke comes immediately to mind: “When the day of reckoning arrives there is but one policy solution: Lying, lying, lying.”

This seems to be the conclusion, the current credo of our politicians and the vast majority of economists. Many of whom are in the business of consulting politicians.

From Economists and Solar Eclipses …

To get a better understanding of what is going on let’s switch to an exemplary story: Suppose we were not dealing with economists but with another breed of scientists, let’s say astronomers. Nearly all of them are using the same theories and models. They’re highly regarded and some have even won the Nobel Prize.

Suddenly something totally unexpected takes place, a total solar eclipse! None of our astronomers had seen this coming. After a short moment of shock and silence, they quickly regain their confidence.

Immediately they start explaining extensively why it had been impossible to predict this eclipse — in spite of the fact that some of their peers had done exactly that, although with an alternative theory.

But the audacity doesn’t stop here. These so-called experts also come up with a variety of necessary measures to make sure that — no more eclipses will happen in the future.

This story illustrates perfectly the sorry state of our current mainly Keynesian-dominated establishment of economists. Their behavior is totally unscientific. And it’s way off track, too.

More Bubbles to Come …

As you can see, most politicians and economists haven’t learned anything from the near breakdown of the financial system. More of the same is their dangerous answer, much more.

Right now this policy is showing some desired effect: The housing market has stabilized, the stock market has risen and the economy has been growing again. But this short-term success has a dangerously high price …

Eventually this policy will again fail, like it did before. Already new bubbles are emerging, and the budget deficit is going through the roof! Now, however, the stakes are even larger, much larger. So the next crisis will be much more severe than the recent one.

My job now is to recognize when the current bounce is over and when the next act in this government-fueled crisis will begin. I’m confident that my models will again lead me successfully.

Right now I don’t see signs of renewed weakness. But we must stay constantly on the alert of changes for the worse. The next time down is unavoidable. And the outcome of this great experiment is clear.

Now the only question is: When?

Best wishes,


'Drunk' United Airlines pilot charged following Heathrow arrest

A United Airlines pilot who was pulled from his trans-Atlantic flight shortly before take-off at Heathrow Airport has been charged with having too much alcohol in his system.

The 'drunk pilot' incident led to the cancellation of United Airlines Flight 949, bound for Chicago's O'Hare airport.

A United Airlines pilot who was pulled from his trans-Atlantic flight shortly before take-off at Heathrow Airport has been charged with having too much alcohol in his system.

Erwin Vermont Washington, 51, of Lakewood, Colorado, was arrested on Monday after colleagues reported him to police and he failed a breath test.

The departure to Chicago was "imminent", with 124 passengers on board and 11 members of crew, when police arrived at the airport.

A source said the pilot was on board the Boeing 767 when he was told that police wanted to speak to him. He was then breath-tested once he was off the plane, out of view of the passengers.

The United Airlines Flight 949, which was due to depart Terminal 1 at 12.05pm, was cancelled and passengers were put on to other planes, but not told the reason why.

A BAA Heathrow spokesman said: "He was reported to police by United Airlines staff. I believe departure was imminent."

A United Airlines spokeswoman said: "Safety is our highest priority and the pilot has been removed from service while we are co-operating with authorities and conducting a full investigation.

"United Airlines' alcohol policy is among the strictest in the industry and we have no tolerance for violation of this well-established policy."

Mr Washington was charged with "being aviation staff performing an aviation function whilst exceeding the proscribed alcohol limit", Scotland Yard said.

He was released on bail and will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court in Middlesex on November 20.

Airline pilots face fare stricter standards than drivers, with an alcohol limit of nine micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, compared to 35 for motorists in England.

The tight limits mean that pilots should abstain from alcohol the night before a flight.

The incident is the second time in the past six months that a pilot set to fly from London to Chicago has been arrested for allegedly being drunk

Congratulations EU?

Congratulations EU?

Nowadays,Brussels is celebrating the signing and ratification of the Lisbon Treaty,which has been long awaited.[1] This treaty simplifies and consolidates the older treaties and also reforms a number of administrative issues related to voting and other aspects. However, most importantly this Treaty introduces a key post which is that of the President of the European Council.[2]

Weeks before the final ratification of the Treaty the media revealed that Toni Blair has a strong interest in becoming the first President of the EU if this post happened to exist. Immediately, Downing Street did not hesitate in providing extensive and full support to the candidate and declared that it serves their national interests. Italy was one of the most enthusiastic and supportive countries to the idea.[3]

Days later President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel met in Paris to discuss this issue and agreed to support Mr. Blair to run for the EU presidency. Although Sarkozy and Merkel withdrew diplomatically from their previous full support to the British candidate, Blair remains one of the strong candidates for the post given the intensive support he is getting from the U.K.[4]

Keeping this overview in mind, some earlier points should be noted to have a full picture of the current scene. On one hand, discussions about Blair’s presidency became more heated in the second half of this year as the Treaty became closer to complete ratification. As shown earlier Blair immediately got the blessings from the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy. However, as noted earlier some problems appeared soon after showing their support.
On the other hand, on Tuesday 20 October 2009 Benedict (second half of the year) opened the gates of the Catholic Church to thousands of Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while maintaining some of their rituals and traditions. One of the goals of such a proposal was to attain“Christian Unity”
.[5] However, few weeks later many Anglican churches were quite suspicious regarding that proposal.[6] Yet, the issue is still underdiscussions and expected to be become clearer by February 2010.[7]

One question remains, why did Benedict make such a proposal to Anglicans and not Orthodox Christians?
Moreover, some interesting observations should be made clear about Blair himself. After he left his post not only he converted from Protestantism to Catholicism but he also started a centre of faith and globalization in the U.S. which reveals a growing religious devotion.
Finally, Sarkozy and Merkel were among others calling upon the EU to include Christianity as the heritage of the Union. In other words, they are trying to assure and stress on the Christian identity of the EU.
After presenting the above many questions arise. Is there any relation between,

  • The timing of the Catholic unity proposal and the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty?
  • The proposal and choosing Blair for the post?
  • The suspicions that grew with regards to the Catholic proposal and the diplomatic withdrawal of France and Germany from backing Blair?

It can be possibly argued that Catholic Toni Blair would serve the interests of the Vatican if he ever becomes the President of the EU. However, this meant that the Church needs to gain more public support to help their candidate. Therefore, for the first time after several centuries of major splitsand conflict between the Anglican and Catholic churches, the latter made such welcoming and generous proposal. If the Catholic Church succeeds in attracting thousands of Anglicans in Europe this will make Catholic Blair more appealing and accepted.
This also explains why the Catholic Church did not make another similar proposal to the Orthodox Church to join them. Is it because there are no major populations of Orthodox in the EU? Given the Christian identity of a number of EU Leaders and due to the presence of several Christian democratic parties in power in several member states, this explains why many leaders such as that of Germany, France, U.K. and Italy immediately supported the proposal.
It should be also noted that the decline in the chances of Blair to become the president of the EU after Germany and France withdrew their full support might more or less be correlated with the preliminary rejection of the Catholic proposal as they occurred on very close dates. In other words, it can be noticed that the acceptance of the idea of Blair’s presidency was on a similar time to the Catholic proposal while the decline of Blair’s chances was also coupled with the decline of the Catholic proposal.

I argue that if the voting of the Anglicans in February 2010 regarding this proposal goes as planned by the Vatican (Anglicans accept joining the Catholic church), Germany and France will support Blair again and he will become the President of the EU. This will mean that the Catholic Church will have direct welcomed access to power over the whole EU after years of marginalization.



筆者表示,“美國是個新興國家,作風自由開放,他們講究實用主義,只要符合美國利益,政策可以 多變。框框沒有老歐洲那麼多。說得不好聽點,就是大大咧咧,吊兒郎當,隨隨便便。也許這正是她的可愛之處。歐洲國家死板,一板正經,衣冠楚楚,正襟危坐, 老是自以為是。教訓起你來,義正詞嚴,不苟言笑。中國政府現在已不是小媳婦了,還聽你這一套。此地不留爺,自有留爺處。過去,美中關係由於反共親台,中國 經濟一窮二白,無利用價值,關係緊張,歐洲尤其是德國,漁翁得利。現在,中歐關係降溫,美國經濟危機,中國扶搖直上,中美雙方互相需要,新總統奧巴馬上 台,完全可以改變以往政策。於是兩者一拍即合。”




奧巴馬團隊真有一套,例如奧巴馬團隊的兩位重量級人物——國務卿希拉里和財政部長蓋特納已先行 到中國“探路”。不久前美國能源部長朱棣文和商務部長駱家輝對中國的訪問,是美國歷史上兩位華裔部長首次聯袂訪華,的確增加了中國人的幾分親切感。這次駱 家輝部長來華之前就已公開表示,他之訪華以確保奧巴馬總統訪華時能有“實質性的進展”。

另一方面,中央軍委副主席徐才厚最近正在美國訪問,參觀眾多美國軍事要地,連美軍“敏感地帶” 的戰略司令部都向中國軍方領導人敞開大門,並與美國防部長蓋茨就軍事交流達成七項共識。既有務實性,又有戰略性。美國如此大方有氣度,與德國法國處處小心 眼地防備中國留學生偷他們技術,有著鮮明的對照,不可同日而語。相形之下,中國人當然更喜歡美國。

美對華政策大有改變2009年德國出版了美國一位影響力極大的社會評論家John Naisb Itt和他夫人Doris聯合撰寫的一本新書《中國的巨大轉向》(Chinas Megatrends)。

此書已由57個國家翻譯出版,兩年來一直名列《New York Times》暢銷書的首位。他既是個企業家,又是幾屆美國總統的顧問,曾獲得15個榮譽博士學位,兩個中國大學的客座教授頭銜。



且看最近的一些新動向:今年6月,中美國防部舉行第十次防務磋商;7月,兩國舉行首輪中美戰略 與經濟對話;奧巴馬9月發佈行政命令,將對華出口“導彈和航天技術及其產品”的核准權從白宮移交到商務部,被外界認為是華盛頓向北京釋放的善意;10月, 中美舉行海上軍事安全磋商機制專門會議;10月23日,美國《亞洲華爾街日報》撰文指出,奧巴馬11月訪華,將帶來一個對華關係的新概念——“戰略保 證”。






















雖然這份工作只有1個月,但在這短短1個月內,獲聘者的“工作”就是乘搭飛機商務艙,遊遍北 京、香港、倫敦、米蘭、紐約、巴黎以及東京等7大都市,吃香喝辣,住宿豪華酒店,還有1萬歐元的“購物費”讓你瘋狂購物,只需在部落格上,介紹你的旅遊經 驗、最值得的購物攻略、比較各地的購物文化,那你就可以領取高達5000歐元“薪水”了!












佳餚一定要配美酒,廚師團選用了法國香檳Louis Roederer、來自Saint Julien的法國紅葡萄酒(Chatea u Leovill e Barton)和奧地利白葡萄酒。





















Barrick shuts hedge book as world gold supply runs out

Global gold production is in terminal decline despite record prices and Herculean efforts by mining companies to discover fresh sources of ore in remote spots, according to the world's top producer Barrick Gold.

Pouring gold bullion - Barrick shuts hedge book as world gold supply runs out
Liquid gold: Gold is poured from the induction kiln Photo: JULIAN SIMMONDS

Aaron Regent, president of the Canadian gold giant, said that global output has been falling by roughly 1m ounces a year since the start of the decade. Total mine supply has dropped by 10pc as ore quality erodes, implying that the roaring bull market of the last eight years may have further to run.

"There is a strong case to be made that we are already at 'peak gold'," he told The Daily Telegraph at the RBC's annual gold conference in London.

"Production peaked around 2000 and it has been in decline ever since, and we forecast that decline to continue. It is increasingly difficult to find ore," he said.

Ore grades have fallen from around 12 grams per tonne in 1950 to nearer 3 grams in the US, Canada, and Australia. South Africa's output has halved since peaking in 1970.

The supply crunch has helped push gold to an all-time high, reaching $1,118 an ounce at one stage yesterday. The key driver over recent days has been the move by India's central bank to soak up half of the gold being sold by the International Monetary Fund. It is the latest sign that the rising powers of Asia and the commodity bloc are growing wary of Western paper money and debt.

China has quietly doubled holdings to 1,054 tonnes and is thought to be adding gradually on price dips, creating a market floor. Gold remains a tiny fraction of its $2.3 trillion in foreign reserves.

Gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs) – dubbed the "People's Central Bank" – have accumulated 1,778 tonnes, making them the fifth biggest holder after the US, Germany, France, and Italy.

Ross Norman, director of, said exploration budgets had tripled since the start of the decade with stubbornly disappointing results so far.

Output fell a further 14pc in South Africa last year as companies were forced to dig ever deeper - at greater cost - to replace depleted reserves, not helped by "social uplift" rules and power cuts. Harmony Gold said yesterday that it may close two more mines over coming months due to poor ore grades.

Mr Norman said the "false mine of central banks" had been the only new source of gold supply this decade as they auction off reserves, but they are switching sides to become net buyers.

Barrick is moving fast to wind down the remaining 3m ounces of its infamous hedge book over the next twelve months, an implicit bet on rising gold prices over time.

Mr Regent said the company had waited too long to ditch the policy, which has made the company enemy number one among 'gold bug' enthusiasts. The hedges oblige Barrick to deliver part of its gold into futures contracts set long ago at levels far below today's spot prices.

The strategy worked well in the falling market of the 1990s, but has cost the company dear in lost profits this decade. "Hindsight is always 20/20," said Mr Regent, who was appointed from the outside earlier this year.

Barrick bit the bullet in the third quarter, taking a $5.7bn charge against earnings on hedge contracts. Liberation is at last in sight. In 2001 the hedge book topped 20m ounces.

Mr Regent said the hedge policy has weighed badly on the share price and irked investors, becoming a bone of contention at every meeting. The financial crisis brought matters to a head as markets fretted about counterparty risk. "It was clear to me that there were a significant number of institutions who wouldn't invest in Barrick because of the hedge book," he said.

Barrick produced 1.9m ounces of gold last quarter, down from 1.95m a year earlier. Costs have been "trending down" to $456 an ounce, though rising energy prices pose a fresh threat. Total reserves are 139m ounces, far ahead of rival Newmont Mining at 86m.

The hedge book venture has not been a happy one, but those who predicted that Barrick would eventually "blow up" on its contracts may owe the company an apology.

Scahill: Obama may be afraid of Blackwater

Despite news reports that the security contractor formerly known as Blackwater has seen its contracts dry up and its influence wane, the company continues to do brisk business in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and the Obama administration may be too afraid of the firm to do anything about it, says investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill.

"You know who's guarding Hillary Clinton in Afghanistan right now? Blackwater," Scahill told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Tuesday night. "You know who guards members of Congress? Blackwater. They have half a billion dollars in contracts in Afghanistan right now. CIA, State Department, Defense Department. Why is President Obama keeping these guys on the payroll? There has never been a company in recent history that made the case that corporations are corrupt, evil organizations [better] than Blackwater."

Scahill was on The Rachel Maddow Show discussing the New York Times' revelation that senior Blackwater executives allegedly arranged for bribes of up to $1 million for Iraqi politicians in a bid to retain its contracts and silence criticism of the company in the wake of the Nissour Square massacre in 2007, in which 17 Iraqi civilians died after Blackwater guards opened fire.

Though the Times report stated that it's unknown if the approved bribes ever reached their targets -- Iraqi politicians -- Scahill drew a connection between the alleged bribes and the fact that, after the Nissour Sqaure massacre, the Iraqi government first decided to bar Blackwater from operating in the country, and then reversed its position.

"You had the Iraqi government saying Blackwater was banned from that country, then suddenly doing an about face, and Blackwater remains in Iraq to this day," Scahill said.