New FOMC framework gold positive – the Holmes Gold SWOT

By Frank Holmes – CEO and Chief Investment Officer, US Global Investors

Strengths

  • The best performing precious metal for the week was palladium, up 3.57 percent.  Speculators have been piling into platinum and palladium futures, largely based on improved car sales in China, but position sizes are approaching all-time highs for both metals.
  • Gold investment in the first half of the year broke previous levels, as seen in the chart below, with both coin and bar demand, as well as ETF product demand, soaring to record levels. Gold demand will get another boost in India as wedding season starts to heat up, particularly with the metal currently trading at a $40-$50 discount in the country, reports Bloomberg. Bullion traders noted persistent buying by jewelers at domestic markets to meet festive season demand.

aug23SWOT

  • Gold got a boost on Thursday on dollar weakness following the release of the Fed minutes, which showed that U.S. interest rates should stay low. According to futures prices compiled by Bloomberg, the odds of an increase in borrowing costs in December fell to 49 percent from 51 percent a day earlier. “From looking at the data, and looking at the minutes, I don’t think we’re any closer to a rate increase,” Chris Gaffney, president of EverBank World Markets said.

Weaknesses

  • The worst performing precious metal for the week was silver with a 2.05 percent fall, of which most of the losses came on Friday when we had renewed strengthening of the dollar.
  • There have been a number of mixed signals from Federal Reserve policymakers this week, sending gold lower on Friday. The jawboning from these officials include a comment from New York Fed President William Dudley, for example, who reinforced his confidence in a possible rate hike for the second time in a week, reports CNBC.  Bullion for immediate delivery fell 0.5 percent an ounce in London, reports Bloomberg, as other officials say the U.S. is strong enough to warrant an increase in interest rates sooner than markets expected.
  • Gold consumption in China fell during the first half of the year, primarily due to a surge in price by 24.6 percent, reports Bloomberg. The Asian nation did keep its top spot as the world’s leading gold producer, however, for the ninth-straight year. Similarly, as the foreign currency crisis deepens in Venezuela, the country’s international gold reserves slumped 25 percent in the first half of the year as they swapped gold for dollars.

Opportunities

  • According to a piece from SmarterAnalyst.com, the FOMC members see the futility in their tools and announced this week that the Fed is rethinking its monetary stance. President of the St. Louis Fed James Bullard explains that the old model was a long-run equilibrium which averaged past economic variables. The new model, however, includes a set of possible regimes that the economy may visit and are not forecastable. The Fed’s new framework would be positive for gold, the article continues, as it would lower market expectations of interest rate hikes and support the price of the shiny metal. It makes the Fed even more agnostic and less inclined to provide clear guidance.
  • CNBC reports that gold’s relationship with stocks reached an all-time low in the 60 sessions through Wednesday’s close. The correlation between gold futures and the S&P 500 was -0.63, the lowest ever between gold and stocks based on CNBC analysis of Factset data going back to 1984. This could be a reason for many investors to buy gold, as the “two unrelated assets will together have a smaller amount of volatility than two identical assets, all else being equal.”
  • Global central banks dumped a record $335 billion in U.S. debt over the past year, according to an article from Zero Hedge. While the author points out his expectation that Saudi Arabia would be one of the biggest sellers (or other “petrodollar-reliant nations”), China, Japan and Hong Kong were the largest sellers of Treasuries in June.  The largest buyer in June was the Cayman Islands with purchases of $28.3 billion – another name for “hedge funds,” the author states.

Threats

  • As Islamist militants pose a growing threat at mines in Burkina Faso, the government announced plans to deploy more than 3,600 soldiers and police to secure its mines, reports Bloomberg. According to Francois Etienne Ouedraogo, the head of the National Office for Securing Mining, the police and soldiers will be “deployed gradually” at the 18 mine sites in Africa’s fourth-largest gold producer. In a report from the IMF last June, the group said that fragile security is one of the main threats to the nation’s economic outlook.
  • Gold equities have re-rated to historical peaks or above, reports Morgan Stanley, with an average 24 percent upside to spot gold already priced in. Similarly, analysts at UBS believe that mining stocks have priced in the gold bull run, and that the underlying metal provides more upside than the stocks. Despite gold being one of the top performing assets year-to-date, the metal’s 26 percent gain pales in comparison to the 110+ percent average lift across the senior producers, UBS continues.

A piece from All Africa Global Media this week points out that the lethal toll of informal gold mining is on the rise. Although deaths at formal mines have come down (fatalities numbered 77 in 2015, making it the least deadly year on record), “zama-zama” or informal fatalities have gone up. By 2015, the official number of informal mining fatalities reached 124 (a 150 percent increase in reported informal mining deaths from three years prior).

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