Friday, 19 June 2009

Bearer bonds and the currency poker game

There is a great sentence in an article about the mysterious bearer bonds that recently showed up in Switzerland.

If the currency war were the world series of poker, the US and the UK would be holding a pair of 2s and relying on nothing but bluffs to keep the rest of the world at bay.

One of the other suggestions which has been made about the reason behind the existence of these bonds (probably inauthentic, but as the article above suggests, not obviously so) is that a Zurich based bank (not necessarily a Swiss bank) may have wanted to include them on its balance sheet as assets to cover up a gaping hole.

All kinds of "mission impossible" motivations can be attached to this incident but the net effect is to make some people think the unthinkable. How much confidence can we have in paper assets when $134 billion of US denominated "bonds" (even if they are forgeries) can occupy the space available on the top of a desk?

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