ECB GOLD PLANS: Germany audits its gold reserves, looks to bring them home.

As news breaks that Mario Draghi’s ECB is giving serious consideration to gold-backed eurobonds and a ban on gold ownership in the eurozone, respected English-language German site DW reports that Berlin is to ship 150 tons of gold from New York to Germany.

In the light of this revelation, the German Bundesbank stresses that it does not doubt ‘the integrity, reputation and safety’ of the foreign storage sites. But Folker Hellmeyer, the chief economist at Bremer Landesbank, observed that “…the shortcomings in monitoring our gold reserves have to be viewed quite critically. It makes sense that this issue has been taken up by the National Audit Office.”

It makes sense alright Folker, but why now? As DW correctly observes, ‘as the financial crisis has engulfed the European single currency zone, [gold] has shifted into the focus of politicians’. Indeed it has.

Germany has the second largest gold reserves in the world. While the US allegedly has 8,133 tons, Germany has nearly 4000 tons. Gold reserves are an important part of the reserves of national banks in the eurozone: according to the World Gold Council (WGC), the eurozone countries together hold over 10,787 tons of gold.

The European Central Bank holds only 502 tons of that – less than 5% of the total. Is Berlin quietly preparing to give support to the ECB’s Last Redoubt plan for the euro? What will the public reaction there be if and when this scheme gains wider awareness in Germany?

This is a developing story. Stay tuned.