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  • the period from 1999 to 2002 in Britain, when gold prices were the lowest for 20 years, has been dubbed as the Brown Bottom?

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The Brown Bottom (or Brown's Bottom) is a term used to describe the period between 1999 and 2002, when gold prices were at their lowest in 20 years following an extended bear market.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

The period takes its name from the decision of Gordon Brown, then the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer and later to become Prime Minister, to sell approximately half of the UK's gold reserves in a series of auctions. At the time, the UK's gold reserves were worth about US$6.5 billion, accounting for about half of the UK's US$13 billion foreign currency net reserves.[7] The UK government's intention to sell gold and reinvest the proceeds in foreign currency deposits, including euros, was announced on 7 May 1999, when the price of gold stood at US$282.40 per ounce.[8] The advance notice of the substantial sales drove the price of gold down by 10% by the time of the first auction on 6 July 1999.[1] With many gold traders shorting, gold reached a low point of US$252.80 on 20 July.[8] The UK eventually sold about 395 tons of gold over 17 auctions from July 1999 to March 2002, at an average price of about US$275 per ounce, raising approximately US$3.5 billion.[8]

To deal with this and other prospective sales of gold reserves, a consortium of central banks - including the European Central Bank and the Bank of England - were pushed to sign the Washington Agreement on Gold in September 1999, limiting gold sales to 400 tonnes per year for 5 years.[7] This triggered a sharp rise in the price of gold, from around US$260 per ounce to around $330 per ounce in two weeks,[7] before the price fell away again into 2000 and early 2001. The Central Bank Gold Agreement was renewed in 2004 and 2009.

Gold prices remained relatively low until 2001, when the price began consistently rising in a protracted bull market. By 2007, the price of gold had reached US$675, and the loss to the UK taxpayer was estimated at more the £2 billion, as the euros bought with the proceeds had also risen in value.[1] The gold price briefly passed US$1,000 per ounce in March 2008,[9] before reaching all-time highs of $1,043.77 on 6 October 2009[10] and $1,048.40 on 7 October 2009,[11] by which time the loss to the UK taxpayer was approximately £4 billion. Gold prices continued to rise, passing US$1,100 per ounce in early November 2009.[12]

The decision to sell gold at the low point in the price cycle has been likened to the mistakes in 1992 that led to Black Wednesday, when the UK was forced to withdraw from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, which HM Treasury has estimated cost the UK taxpayer around £3.3 billion.[1]

See also

  • Late-twentieth century commodity prices

References

  1. ^ a b c d Goldfinger Brown's £2 billion blunder in the bullion market, The Times, 15 April 2007
  2. ^ The outlook for gold, The Daily Telegraph, 19 December 2008
  3. ^ The Gold Bull Market Remembers How Gordon Brown Sold Half of Britains Reserves at the Lowest Price, The Market Oracle, Clive Maund, 1 April 2007
  4. ^ The Significance of the IMF-RBI Gold Sales, Tim Iacono, GoldSeek.com, 5 November 2009
  5. ^ In 2008, Gold Should Glitter, James Turk, SFO magazine, February 2007.
  6. ^ China & IMF Gold Sales; The Real Story, Warren Bevan, gold-eagle.com, 23 June 2009
  7. ^ a b c Review of the sale of part of the UK gold reserves, HM Treasury, October 2002
  8. ^ a b c Gold: Does Gordon Brown's regret selling half of Britains' gold reserves 10 years ago?, The Daily Telegraph, 8 May 2009
  9. ^ Gold returns back above $1,000, BBC News, 8 September 2009, Gold hits $1,000 for first time, BBC News, 13 March 2008
  10. ^ Gold price rises to all-time high, BBC News, 6 October 2009
  11. ^ Gold price returns to fresh high, BBC News, 7 October 2009
  12. ^ Gold hits new high on weak dollar, BBC News, 9 November 2009
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