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For release on delivery
(7 p.m. , Thursday,
February 11, 1965)

Dollars, Gold, and International Payments

Remarks of Wm. McC. Martin, Jr. ,
Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,

before the
Annual Dinner Meeting of
The Bond Club of New York

New York City

February 11, 1965

Two weeks ago, a proposal to modify our laws
regarding the holding of gold as monetary reserves was put
before the Congress by the President of the United States.
In the interval since, we have had considerable
discussion not only of that proposal but also of the entire subject
of dollars, gold, and international payments.
To me, that is as it should be, for these are
matters that deserve the interest and understanding of us all.
Accordingly, I should like to add some comments on them tonight,
though I realize that little that I might say could seem new to a
group as well versed in finance as this.
I'd like to begin with general observations on a
couple of points that I hope every American will keep in mind.
First, what is involved here is not merely a
matter of finance.

That is attested by the recent entry into this

discussion of one of the world 's foremost political leaders, the
President of France, with some suggestions that would downgrade
the role of the dollar in international operations.

The fact is that

if the financial standing of the United States declines, the power


and influence this country wields in the world's affairs--and
seeks to direct toward the preservation of world peace--inevitably
will decline as well.
Second, what we must constantly strive for in the
conduct of our monetary and fiscal affairs is to provide assurance
to every holder of the U. S. dollar--at home or abroad--of a
full measure of value for his money.

That requires that we

make it a prime objective of national policy to preserve the
integrity of the dollar, both in respect to its domestic purchasing
power and to its international convertibility into gold, at $35 an

If we do not preserve that integrity, we are not going to

maintain confidence in the dollar--and without that confidence,
we cannot possibly sustain the prosperous economies here and
abroad that depend on the dollar and the trade it finances.
Fortunately, the strength and stability of our
domestic economy, which go hand in hand with the strength and
stability of the dollar, continue impressive.

Our course forward

on the path of relatively steady growth has been maintained un¬
broken now for 48 months, a record almost unrivaled in peace¬
time history.

That is a performance in which we can all take

To prolong it, as I'm sure all of us would like to do, we


must of course be on the alert to safeguard ourselves against the
development of imbalances, in the credit field or elsewhere, that
could bring a bitter end to the long sweet spell of prosperity.


for the moment, most if not all goes well here at home.
On the international front, we have been doing decidedlyless well.

The center of trouble is, of course, the continuing,

chronic imbalance in our international payments accounts, where-instead of realizing hopes for a significant improvement — we added
a further $3 billion deficit in 1964 to the more than $20 billion pile
of deficits accumulated in the preceding six years.
As all of you know, a broad program aimed at ending
our balance of payments deficit was launched yesterday by President
Johnson in a special message to Congress in which the President
declared emphatically that "the dollar is, and will remain, as good
as gold, freely convertible at $35 an ounce. "
The Federal Reserve System shares the Presidents con¬
cern about the deterioration in our balance of payments and his
determination to improve our payments position and to strengthen
confidence in the dollar.

The System and the banking and financial

community have been assigned major roles in the President's


The central focus of the program is on measures to
reduce financial outflows, which have been heavy in recent years
and in recent months have contributed to a worsening of our inter¬
national payments position.

In the fourth quarter of 1964, for

example, bank credit to foreigners expanded by $1 billion.
To help assure the success of the program, the System
is requesting all banks to limit credits to foreigners that are not
clearly and directly for the purpose of financing exports of U, S.
goods and services.

Over all, the objective is to hold outstand¬

ing credits (including export credits) to foreigners during 1965 to
a level not over five per cent above the December 31, 1964, outstandings.

In most instances, this should be the minimum goal

for individual banks,
I am confident that the financial community, of which
you here are an important part, will join with the Federal Reserve
System in this urgent national effort to restore balance of payments
equilibrium and to maintain the dollar "as good as gold. "! To a
considerable extent, the success of the President's program will
depend upon our efforts.


Now I'd like to take up the earlier Presidential pro¬
posal, to amend the gold reserve requirements, which now has
been approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 300 to
82 and is to come up for consideration in the Senate in the near
The Federal Reserve Act, as it stands, requires
each Federal Reserve Bank to maintain a gold certificate
reserve of at least 25 per cent against its Federal Reserve notes
in actual circulation, plus a further gold certificate reserve of
at least 25 per cent against the deposits it holds.
The amendment the President has proposed would
retain the requirement of a gold certificate reserve of 25 per
cent or more against Federal Reserve notes, which constitute the
principal part of our currency today.

But it would eliminate the

requirement of a like reserve against the deposits, which consist
mainly of member banks' funds.
That conditions now call for some change in the
legal requirements seems clear.

By the end of 1964, the ratio

of the Federal Reserve Banks' gold certificate holdings to their


deposits and notes combined was 27. 5 per cent, down 2 points
from a year earlier and only 2-1/2 points above the legal mini¬
mum now prescribed in Section 16.

If developments well

within the range of possibilities should occur, the legal mini¬
mum could be breached soon, possibly within a year.
In the half century since the enactment of the
Federal Reserve Act, the function of gold in our monetary sys¬
tem has undergone fundamental change.

More than three decades

ago, coinage of gold, redemption of bank notes and deposits in
gold, and private acquisition and holding of monetary gold were
discontinued in this country.

Domestically, these actions in

effect ended the private use of gold as a store of value.


nationally, they enlarged the availability of U. S. gold for official
settlements with other governments in response to the needs of
our foreign commerce and investment.
The readiness of the U. S. Treasury to buy and
sell gold at the fixed price of $35 an ounce in transactions with
foreign monetary authorities has greatly contributed to the
willingness of foreign monetary authorities and private foreign
residents to hold a growing total of dollar reserves and working

Consequently, the U. 3. gold stock has come to play


the dual role of supporting the international convertibility of the
dollar and of facilitating the interconvertibility of other cur¬
rencies among themselves and into the dollar.
This dual role of our monetary gold has in turn
helped the dollar to attain a unique position in international
commerce and finance.

And the universal acceptability of

dollars has greatly facilitated the record expansion of inter¬
national trade over the past 15 years, with world trade rising
from less than $60 billion to nearly $160 billion.

For this

reason, the availability of U. S. monetary gold holdings to
meet international convertibility needs is a matter of vital
importance not only to the United States but the entire present
system of international payments on which the free world relies.
In consequence of the large and persistent deficit
in the U. S. balance of payments after 1957, many foreign
countries accumulated dollar balances in excess of their needs
for working balances, reserves, and investments.


monetary authorities used such excess dollar balances to pur¬
chase gold from the U. S. Treasury and the resulting decline in
the U. 3. gold stock has contributed to the sharp reduction in the
system's reserve ratio.


Gold certificate reserves of the Federal Reserve
Banks today are considerably below the peak of $23. 4 billion
they reached in September 1949, when U. S. held about 70 per
cent of the free world!s monetary gold.

Over the period from

1949 through 1964, net sales of U. S. gold to foreign monetary
authorities reduced our gold certificate reserve by $8. 4 billion.
In the same period, growth in Federal Reserve deposit liabilities
and notes in circulation absorbed in required reserves $3. 5

Over these 15 years, therefore, Federal Reserve Bank

holdings of gold certificates in excess of the minimum required
by statute have on balance declined by $11. 9 billion.
In substantial part United States1 sales of gold
to foreign monetary authorities since 1949 have reflected post¬
war recovery of the free world from the monetary chaos created
by the Second World

and the desire of the major foreign

industrial countries to reestablish convertibility of their cur¬

These countries sought to accomplish this by accumu¬

lating monetary reserves partly in the form of gold and partly
in the form of dollar balances.

Between the end of 1949 and

the end of 1964, the dollar component of monetary reserves of
foreign countries rose by $10 billion (from $3 billion to $13 billion)


while their monetary gold stocks rose by $16 billion (from $9
billion to $25 billion).

Foreign private holdings of dollars also

increased by $8 billion, from about $3 billion to nearly $11
As you know, the Federal Reserve has acted to
prevent the outflow of gold from exerting a deflationary impact
upon our economy.

To this end, the Federal Reserve offset the

effects of the decline in its gold certificate holdings by expand¬
ing its holdings of U, S. Government securities.

In addition,

the System further increased its Government security holdings
in order to sustain an expansion of bank credit consistent with
a growing economy and a relatively stable average of prices.
Over the years ahead, the continued growth of
U. S. economic activity will require continuing monetary expan¬
sion consistent with a stable dollar.

Under prospective conditions,

it appears all but certain that the gold certificate reserve ratio
of Federal Reserve Banks, for domestic monetary reasons alone,
will steadily decline, even if gold sales to foreign monetary
authorities are small.

Of course, any substantial further outflow

of gold would accentuate such a decline.


I might note here that, to take care of the possi¬
bility of emergencies, the Federal Reserve Act has long con¬
tained provisions empowering the Board of Governors to suspend
the gold reserve requirements, initially for a period of 30 days,
and thereafter for periods of 15 days each.

It seems clear,

however, that the authority to suspend was intended to facilitate
adjustments by those Reserve Banks whose reserves fall
temporarily below required levels, and not to provide a solution
to a national problem of more than temporary import.
Accordingly, the time seems ripe for legislative
changes in the reserve requirements that will, as President
Johnson said in his Economic Report,
"• . . place beyond any doubt the ability of
the Federal Reserve to meet its responsibility for
providing an adequate but not excessive volume of
bank r e s e r v e s , n
"• . . place beyond any doubt our ability
to use our gold to make good our pledge to maintain
the gold value of the dollar at $35 an ounce with
every resource at our command, "
Opinions may differ on what changes in the gold
reserve requirements might best fit the country's needs.


seems to me that the method proposed by the President, which
would eliminate the gold cover against the deposits and stop


with that, provides a practical response to a practical question,
and a response properly proportioned to the present circum¬

3y removing the reserve requirement against deposits,

it would free approximately $4. 8 billion in gold now earmarked
for cover purposes and raise the total free gold certificate hold¬
ings to about $6. 2 billion.
Moreover, by retaining the traditional gold
"backing" for Federal Reserve notes, the proposal would be
reassuring to those who, in their continuing concern for the
stability of the dollar, see in a gold cover requirement an
important element of strength.

The value of any currency is so

much a product of confidence that one should not disregard this
positive advantage of limited repeal.
The removal of the reserve requirement against
deposits would seem to me fully adequate to meet our present
and foreseeable needs and sufficiently ample to remove any
doubt anywhere about our ability to defend the dollar abroad,
and to further advance the progress of our domestic economy.
Regardless of what is done about legal require¬
ments, there is an inescapable practical requirement that we
maintain an adequate gold stock to back up the role of the dollar


as a key currency in world trade.

Hence the need to conserve

our gold stock will in itself continue to exert a helpful
disciplinary influence on monetary and other policies.
Let me say in closing that all of us need to be
mindful that sound money is not established by statute alone.
In the end, our nation cannot have sound money
unless its monetary and fiscal affairs are soundly managed.
And sound management of our country's financial business
depends upon the judgment, integrity, and courage of those
charged with responsibility for these matters, not only in the
Federal Reserve System, but also in the Congress and in the
Administration as well.
The paramount necessity, in any event, is that
we have the will and determination to preserve the value of our
money, and that we demonstrate it unceasingly in our fiscal,
monetary and debt management policies.

If we do so, no change

that we make in the gold reserve requirements will, in my
judgment, impair the soundness and stability of our currency
system; if we should fail to do so or, worse still, if our country
should ever positively embrace inflation as an acceptable
course, it would be unrealistic to suppose that any reserve
requirement or other like statute, would suffice to save the dollar.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, One Federal Reserve Bank Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63102