Futures & Commodities

Will the US give the Dutch their gold back?

Why the Swiss gold vote is part of a global trend
Why the Swiss gold vote is part of a global trend

As the Dutch central bank looks to repatriate some of its gold reserves back from the New York Federal Reserve, Dennis Gartman, the editor and publisher of The Gartman Letter, has questioned what reputational damage this could cause for the U.S.

The Dutch central bank last week confirmed that it was shipping gold from the U.S. to the Netherlands to "spread its gold stock in a more balanced way", adding that it would have a "positive effect on public confidence".

It comes after the Germans made a similar move in 2013, indicating that it would transfer 300 tons from New York by 2020. The Bundesbank has surprised many in the industry, however, by only moving 5 tons last year in what it called a "run-up phase of gold repatriation".

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Gartman stressed that it was a complicated issue which "is made all the more complicated by the fact that the Germans have talked about repatriation but have repatriated only a very small sum".

The New York Federal Reserve building in New York.
Scott Eells | Bloomberg | Getty Images

He added that there was a "reputational" problem for the New York Federal Reserve, which could have been quickly and easily handled by a press conference by the bank. Instead, the closely-watched commodities analyst - who conceded that he was not a gold bug – said the silence from the bank concerned him.

The Dutch central bank is set to cut the amount of its stock held in New York from 51 percent to 31 percent, but keep its reserves in London and Canada unchanged. The bank has been vague on whether the move had already been completed and a spokesperson for the bank couldn't comment on the proceedings due to the security issues associated with such an operation.

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Is this Switzerland's gold rush?
Is this Switzerland's gold rush?

"Were I the Dutch, or the Germans or any country housing gold in the U.S. I'd be asking questions about my gold and I'd be remiss were I not doing so," Gartman told CNBC via email. "In the end, I suspect that the gold is indeed there; that the Germans will ask for and get their gold repatriated; that the rumors are ill founded and ill advised."

Gartman's concerns were put to an official at the Bundesbank in February by Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper. Executive Board Member Carl-Ludwig Thiele refuted rumors that the gold in New York was no longer there, or that the Germans had been given limited access to it. Thiele called it "absurd" and said he had personally seen the reserves.

Marshall Gittler, the head of global foreign exchange strategy at IronFX, said he was equally puzzled as to why Germany had fallen short with its transfer, however.

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"The question of why Germany can't get its gold back is perhaps the biggest mystery in the financial world today," he told CNBC via email. "I think the Netherlands (and some Swiss voters) are entirely correct in wanting to make sure that their gold is someplace where their own representatives can count it."

Switzerland is holding an important referendum on its gold holdings this weekend, with its citizens set to decide whether the Swiss National Bank (SNB) should refrain from selling any more of its gold and instead boost its gold holdings from 7 to 20 percent.

- By CNBC's Matt Clinch