Negative Lease Rates Revisited

The Gold Lease Rate (GLR) as reported by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) turned negative after the peak of the credit crisis in 2008. The GLR over 1,2 and 3 months stayed negative for most of 2009 and 2010.

LBMA Gold Lease Rate 2008-2010

LBMA Gold Lease Rate 2008-2010

 
Since nobody leases their gold without charging a fee, a negative GLR seems to be nonsense. So how come the LBMA reports consistently negative GLRs?

We show that in an efficient market, the GLR as reported by the LBMA is equal to the risk premium for the case that the leased gold is not returned minus the storage fees for the gold, and so it can indeed come out negative.

Another possible answer is that LIBOR may have been rigged. As of a week ago, US, UK and Japanese authorities were investigating several banks for allegedly having manipulated LIBOR, the London Inter Bank Offered Rate.

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Bullion Banking with Alice and Bob

We are not long. We are not short. We just borrow and lend.

This is a sketch of how a bank might lend against a reserve of physical bullion. We look at a number of simplified balance sheets that illustrate the changes in the reserve ratio, and we point out the two main risks: bad loans and a run on the bank. This article contains nothing new. There are just a number of examples to illustrate the common transactions.

In future articles, we will ask what an owner of physical bullion can do in order to earn interest using his or her bullion, and how a bullion bank might try to defend against a run on their physical reserve.
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