Gold price benchmarking battle commencing

The London LBMA Gold Price benchmarking process has this week added three new participants to its benchmarking process, one of which is the Bank of China.  Meanwhile reports indicate that a second Chinese bank (China Construction Bank) is also to be approved for participation among the benchmark setters.  It thus looks as though there is an ongoing move to try and maintain the London influence despite the move of gold trade eastwards and continuing accusations of lack of transparency in the process.

It should be recalled that when the new benchmarking process was set up earlier this year there was considerable speculation that up to three Chinese banks, which would seem to meet all the parameters to membership of the elite group of price setters, would be involved.  Come the event there was considerable disappointment amongst the gold bulls in particular, and some others, that no Chinese banks were involved.  Indeed the initial participants were effectively the same banks which had been participating in the old system.  These were subsequently joined by first Goldman Sachs and UBS and then by JP Morgan (See: Red rag to gold bulls – JPMorgan added to LBMA Gold Price Banks) making for a grouping which would raise the blood pressures of those who believe in gold price manipulation by the bullion banks in conjunction with certain central banks as the LBMA participants then comprised virtually all the usual suspects in suggested gold price rigging scenarios……..

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Gold price benchmarking:let battle commence

China gold demand picking up strongly this month

Contrary to a number of media reports telling us China demand for gold has collapsed, and also that premia on the Chinese gold markets have turned to discounts, the latest figures out of Shanghai belie these statements.  For the latest week for which figures are now available (ended June 12th) 46.151 tonnes of gold have been withdrawn from the Shanghai Gold Exchange – an extremely strong figure for a time of year when seasonality of demand tends to see withdrawals in the high 20s or low 30s of tonnes – see the excellent chart of weekly withdrawals from Nick Laird’s website from 2009 to date below:

SGE week


The latest withdrawal figures suggest that Chinese gold demand as indicated by the SGE figures, is heading for a new record half year level of perhaps close on 1,150 tonnes – the levels are certainly running higher at the moment than they were in 2013 and 2014 – the highest years on record for SGE gold withdrawals.  And with the typical Chinese gold demand pattern seeing particularly high figures from about September onwards, portents are good for demand to surge yet higher again this year.

As we have pointed out here before there are arguments out there over whether SGE withdrawal figures represent Chinese total gold demand or not with most mainstream Western analysts coming up with much lower figures for Chinese wholesale gold consumption.  Koos Jansen of, who follows these matters perhaps in more detail than anyone, is adamant that SGE gold withdrawals do approximate closely to real Chinese gold demand – and they certainly are at the very least a proxy for Chinese gold flows now actual import figures are clouded by the direct imports through centres other than Hong Kong, which are not reported by the Chinese authorities.  We have been calculating that perhaps around 40% of Chinese gold imports are now coming in directly rather than via Hong Kong which makes the Hong Kong figures, as reported by the mainstream media, no longer indicative of total Chinese demand.

So Chinese gold demand, as represented by the latest SGE figures, seems to be alive and surging – rather than at death’s door as most media headlines would have us believe.  Do read my article on Mineweb entitled Gold: The US sets the price but Asia does the buying for further thoughts on what I see as an enormous anomaly in gold pricing today.  It will be interesting to see if the Bank of China joining the LBMA price setting participants helps address this balance.


Bank of China joins LBMA gold benchmark setters

Bank of China joins LBMA gold benchmark setters

The big news today is the participation of the Bank of China amongst the group of banks which set the LBMA London gold price benchmark.  Julian Phillips comments on the gold price drivers.

New York closed yesterday at $1,186.20 up $5.20.  Today sees the dollar weaker at $1.1265 down half a cent with the dollar index weaker at 94.97 down from 95.28. The LBMA Gold Price was set at $1,182.10 up $3.85 from a day earlier with the equivalent euro price at €1,050.24 down €3.74. Ahead of New York’s opening, gold was trading in London at $1,183.50 and in the euro at €1,051.11.

The silver price rose to $16.11 up from$15.94 in New York. Ahead of New York’s opening it was trading at $16,03.

The biggest news of the day for gold is the addition of the first Chinese bank to the LBMA Gold price setting members. The Bank of China is the new member. Bank of China’s direct participation in the gold auction would reinforce the connection between the Chinese domestic market and overseas markets, making the international gold price better reflect the supply and demand in China, and help to promote the internationalization of the Chinese gold market. We would expect more Chinese banks to join to make the hopes of the Bank of China come true. It would represent the start of the shift in pricing power to Shanghai, we believe.

There is no basis for agreement between the E.U. and Greece it seems.  Weighing up the factors on both sides, we see the E.U. having considerably more to lose than Greece now. The head of Airbus is extremely happy with the orders Airbus achieved at the Paris Air show and attributed its success in no small part to the euro’s exchange rate with the dollar. If that had been at $1.40, what would it have cost this company alone? Here is where the potential loss to the E.U. lies! Add geopolitical factors and we would think the stakes are far higher than just the accountants and finance ministers concerns.

The remarkable feature of the Greek debt crisis is that markets across the world are moving according to the state of those negotiations, at least that is what the media tells us. If this is true, we ask why? Is it because the expected damage to the currency world is far greater than we are led to believe? If the exit of Greece from the Eurozone is to have a global impact, it will be seen in the currency world leaving it in a state of turbulence. With the globe’s two most important currencies gyrating against each other thereafter, the economic ramifications are far larger than so far stated.

Bear in mind that these two currencies and trading blocs have satellite, trading nations that supply them, who move their own currencies against these two. China is included in this group, so far, but its objective is to be the third and independent major global currency that won’t fit into the current world monetary system except on terms that suits it alone.  The subsequent monetary turbulence that is coming, no matter what, will reshape the global monetary system and gold will be needed to temper the turbulence thereafter.

There were sales of gold from the SPDR gold ETF of 2.087 tonnes of gold on Monday. The holdings of the SPDR gold ETF are at 701.897 tonnes and at 167.01 tonnes in the Gold Trust.

Julian D.W. Phillips for the Gold & Silver Forecasters and


The New London Gold Fixing

Julian D. W. Phillips of and gives us his thoughts on what will happen when the London gold ‘fixing’ system is changed on Friday this week

The Heart of the Gold Price – The “Fix”

The London Gold Fixing, the twice daily gold pricing mechanism at which the bulk of physical gold transactions take place is changing dramatically. In the past, five London-based gold bullion banks on a direct telephone link to their clients, established a price at which these transactions took place. This was an efficient way to establish an accurate price for gold deals done outside of the contracts used to supply the bulk of gold deals.

It is in this market that physical gold traders and speculators [we view the COMEX market as a financial market as only around 5% of its deals involve the movement of physical gold] also participated. By trading the marginal supplies of gold [outside of contracted sales of the bulk of gold supplies] a much smaller total, the influence of traders and speculators has had a disproportionate impact on the moment-to-moment gold prices. While the developed world received 80% of global cash flow [up to the year 2000] it also held power over the global gold market.

London – the Heart of the Gold Market

For centuries London has been the global hub of the gold market particularly during the Gold Standard, when London was importing South Africa’s over 1,000 tonnes of newly mined gold a year. London has been able to maintain its position as the world’s leading financial market and in particular its gold market. The high standards of gold and people involved in that market allow it to still dominate the physical gold market,

In the last few years there have been charges that the “Gold Fixing” system was outdated and the gold price manipulated by the gold bullion banks, often with government influence.  While this had an element of truth in it, it was not true of the overall London gold market’s individual professional operators.

The main gold price manipulation in the past came from 1933 [when the dollar was devalued against gold] and after 1985, when central banks encouraged the acceleration of gold production to swamp the gold market, while implying that they were willing to sell off their over 30,000 tonnes of gold into the gold market. Such manipulation came to a halt in 2009.  Since then individual traders have manipulated prices not only in the gold market but interest rate markets and remain under investigation for other incidents of manipulation in financial markets. But the perception has been that the gold market has been operated by professional, capable men and women, in general.

The main bullion banks that operated the gold markets have also been responsible for shipping gold bought there, to the global markets. As we have seen in the recent past, the banks can enjoy larger incomes from the inefficiencies of the distribution chains, which invite the establishment of premiums in markets such as Shanghai and India. These premiums accrued to the banks, so they did not encourage an improvement in the distribution system or the lowering of such premiums.

The rise of the Emerging World

By 2020, at the latest the emerging world will enjoy 65% of global cash flow and the developed world 35% of it. The shift of wealth and power eastwards has led to a very different global gold market. In the developed world the dollar-based currency system has sought to wean the developed world off gold and onto national currencies and has succeeded to date. The gold market appears to therefore have less relevance to financial life than it has had throughout history. With the development of markets trading in gold shares or other gold derivatives [futures and options] the bulk of the demand for actual gold has shrunk to very low levels in the west. This has made it far easier to influence gold prices more directly as new supplies have hit the ceiling they have now.

The result has been that the dominance of the major western banks over the gold markets and participants is almost complete. The sheer power of the volumes of money they can wield over all financial markets has allowed them and their traders to ‘make’ prices.

But as emerging markets have risen in wealth and power and gold production, the ability to ‘make’ prices should have moved away from the developed world eastwards reflecting the percentage of global gold demand China and India represent, alongside the Middle East, if markets had been efficient. But they haven’t as the institutions that operated the gold markets retained their power over distribution and markets.

Add demand from the Middle East to China and India and their demand represents around 75% of global gold demand. On top of that China at an annual production level or around 450 tonnes is now the largest gold producer on the planet. So why doesn’t the gold market reflect the fundamental changes in supply and demand?

It’s all about presence in the global gold market and the products on offer and the ease that they move across the different markets. China’s gold market is still developing on the pricing front. It has developed strongly in terms of gold used in its financial system and continues to expand its distribution system westwards in China, but has a long way to go to reach all corners of China. More importantly, its absence from the London gold market, in terms of participating directly in it, has prevented its gold market presence being felt. The same applies in India, where western banks continue to dominate distribution to the country.

It is apparent that China is no longer content to use London’s banks as its only source of foreign supplied gold. To that end it welcomes the redesign of the London Gold Fixing process and wants to join in. On March 20th the London Gold Fix changes to a new mechanism, the LBMA Gold Price,  involving global banks as well as the London Bullion Market banks that operate the Gold Fixing now. It is hoped that the new electronic mechanism will operate more efficiently and smooth out global prices as well as lower the influence of the current London banks on the gold price.

At the moment there is a $5 premium over and above the London gold price in Chinese gold markets. With the following Chinese banks; Bank of China Ltd, China Construction Bank Corp and ICBC now expected to join in the London Fixing, the pricing power of the Chinese gold market will hopefully, directly impact the gold price thereafter.

If we see the premium over the gold price, in China, disappear, this will have happened.  Bear in mind that Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has become the world’s largest gold retail bank already and will bring to bear its significant number of clients in China. Not only do we expect these banks to operate in a way that they will try to remove the gold price premium in China [which at the moment increases the profitability of the selling [mainly foreign] banks] but make the gold market more globally efficient.

With the Chinese gold market being a one-way street  [no legals export of gold is permitted] we expect the Chinese banks to create a ‘pool of liquidity’ where selling orders from China can take place in London without Chinese gold leaving China. Nevertheless, that ‘pool’ of gold liquidity in London that we expect to see, will facilitate arbitrage operations that smooth out global prices and make the Chinese gold market the two-way street it needs to be to reflect global demand and supply. In turn we will see a 24-hour gold market.

The swing to 1 kg bars from the 400 ounce ‘good delivery’ bars in London we are now seeing from the vast tonnages of gold being re-refined in Switzerland and elsewhere, will hopefully increase the fluidity of market products, globally. The presence of Chinese banks in London may well speed that process up.

Yuan Gold Fix this Year

The Chinese have announced that they will set up their own Gold Fix in the Yuan in Shanghai, later this year. We believe that, alongside the developments we described above, such a Fix will be taken to heart by the global gold market both in the developed emerging and developed world. The fact that the price will only be in Yuan, will ensure that the gold world will get used to the Chinese currency and be in a position to trade in the Yuan without having to go through the Dollar, the Euro and the Pound Sterling, which carry separate risks.

With the Chinese government encouraging the international use of the Yuan in global trade and financing, it will be a small step for foreign entities, including central banks, to hold Yuan in their reserves in the future. But this will not affect the gold market, simply the global currency markets. After all, gold is considered an alternative to all currencies.