China’s annual gold production falls for first time in years

According to figures released by the China Gold Association (CGA), China’s annual gold output fell, albeit by a paltry 0.4%. in 2015, down to a still comfortably world leading 450.05 tonnes.  While the actual amount of the fall is insignificant, the fact that it has declined at all, is not so. Over the past 10 years China’s gold output has been growing at an average annual rate of around 11% bringing it far and away to being the world’s top gold mining nation – producing 1.6 times more gold than the world’s second and third largest gold miners – Australia and Russia, and more than double that of No.4, the USA – See: World’s Top 10 Gold Mining Nations and Peak Gold for consultancy GFMS’s most recent report on production from the world’s top 10 global gold mining nations – which incidentally had suggested that China’s gold output rose last year, but as we pointed out these figures were only estimates.  One would hope that the latest CGA figure is definitive.

The CGA also reckoned that Chinese gold ‘consumption’ last year ‘rose’ 3.7% to 985 tonnes.  However the CGA apparently subscribes to the World Gold Council’s ‘consumption estimates’ (there is an association between the CGA and the WGC). which we reckon hugely underplays the amounts of gold flowing into China by ignoring gold held by the Chinese commercial banks (See: How does one calculate the huge gold flows into China now SGE no longer publishing withdrawal data).  Known imports gold into china last year were very significantly higher than the cga figures for ‘consumption’, and to which has to be added the aforementioned mined gold output, plus scrap.  Such gold absorption by China would thus be comfortably more than double the CGA’s ‘consumption’ estimate.  Be this as it may, the CGA does say that it expects Chinese gold demand to keep on growing in the years ahead along with the growth in the Chinese middle classes with their buying power.  (Latest estimates put the numbers of Chinese with middle class status now exceeding the number of U.S. middle class citizens and continuing to grow with China’s GDP.  Don’t be fooled into believing that China is in recession.  Even though there are doubts expressed about the actual level of GDP growth, it IS still growing, and at a faster rate than western economies.)

What this means, if the Chinese gold production decline continues, is that its citizenry will need to replace the shortfall in China’s own gold output by buying more from outside.  Thus higher import levels (We have already seen a big surge in gold imports from Hong Kong in December). This can only exacerbate the ever continuing gold flows from West to East.  This physical gold has to come from somewhere – or will lead to substantially higher gold prices which could even overcome the COMEX futures market pricing based on paper gold transactions.  How long this will take is anyone’s guess, but the day must be drawing closer.

See also: China gold output falters for first time in around 20 years on

Gold and Silver both showing ‘Desire to Rise’

The New York gold price closed Tuesday at $1,087.20 down $2. In Asia on Wednesday, it was lifted to over $1,094 before London opened and then was set by the LBMA at $1,093.20 up from $1,087.00 with the dollar index lower at 99.03 down from 99.21 on Tuesday. The euro was up at $1.0906 from $1.0867 against the dollar. The gold price in the euro was set at €1,002.38 up from €1,000.28. Ahead of New York’s opening, the gold price was trading at $1,095.15 and in the euro at €1,004.17 moving up nicely towards the $1100 level again.  

The silver price in New York closed at $14.03 up 3 cents at Tuesday’s close.  Ahead of New York’s opening on Monday, the silver price stood at $14.10.

Price Drivers

Yesterday, just ahead of the opening in New York there was an attempt to take gold’s delicate market balance and push gold prices down heavily through to $1,083, but over the day the gold price floated higher ending the day at $1,087.20, the same as it was when the day began. With Asia taking it over $1,090 this morning, the battle over the price in the last day was won by the bulls, perhaps indicating the way forward for the rest of the week. While we expected a strong move either way yesterday, the attempt to break the gold price down was foiled, but with an indication that the gold price would prefer to rise?

Tuesday saw no purchases or sales from either the SPDR gold ETF or the Gold Trust. The holdings of the SPDR gold ETF are now at 657.924 tonnes and at 161.46 tonnes in the Gold Trust.  This showed that the attempt to push gold down again had no physical substance so could not hold prices down.

With China now moving to play such an important role in the future of the gold market and its price, its moves to tighten ties with the Middle East and particularly Saudi Arabia [its largest oil supplier] and other Middle Eastern nations comes under the spotlight. Saudi Arabia has signed important developments contracts with China yesterday, leaving the U.S. out of these particular contracts. Is the hold over Saudi Arabia [and Iran] by the U.S. weakening? China may well do the same with Iran?

The advantage to them of China is that China stays away from politics, leaving them to do their own thing. At the heart of concern over such moves is the use of the dollar in oil transactions. China may be paying in dollars, now, but undoubtedly, will also offer Yuan, eventually. This will directly affect the dollar on foreign exchanges and by extension, the gold price. This could become China’s choice adding to China’s hold over the dollar on foreign exchanges?

The same desire to rise is found in the silver market, which ignored gold’s small fall yesterday before its recovery. Just as with gold, the same conditions apply to the silver price, which as always, will be sure to go. –

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

Update with chart: Gold taken out of China’s SGE to top previous record by huge 400 tonnes.

The following is an edited version of an article I’ve written for – and was posted on that site on Friday, entitled: CHINA: SGE Gold withdrawals head for huge new record year.  This year’s withdrawal figures passed the 2013 full year record a months ago already and at the current rate will exceed the previous record figure by around 400 tonnes by the year end – although there’s a chance the figure could be higher still as withdrawals tend to rise as we get closer to the Chinese New Year, which falls on February 8th in 2016.

The big growth in SGE withdrawals this year is demonstrated  by the chart below from Nick Laird’s website  which shows total withdrawals at the same time for the past seven years.  As can be seen gold taken out from the Shanghai exchange have been growing strongly year by year apart from a blip in 2014.    This year’s figure for week 47 is thus a massive 538 tonnes higher than at the same time last year and 382 tonnes higher than in the previous record 2013 year.  As can be seen from the chart the growth in withdrawals accelerated hugely in 2013 compared with previous years – a trend which has continued pretty well since.

sge 47

The Sharps Pixley article notes that although Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) weekly withdrawal figures seem to have fallen back a little from their heady July/August/September heights, when at times over 70 tonnes of physical gold were taken out of the Exchange’s vaults in a single week, this year’s total is still heading for a huge new record high.  Total withdrawals so far this year to the end of last week (Dec 4th – the SGE reports withdrawals a week in arrears) have amounted to just under 2,405 tonnes after a figure of 42.6 tonnes in the latest reported week.  The record full year withdrawals figure was back in 2013 when 2,181 tonnes were withdrawn – a figure which was already surpassed several weeks ago and with virtually four weeks of withdrawals still to come this year the full year total looks to be heading for the high 2,500s.  For reference the full year SGE withdrawals figure in 2014 had fallen back somewhat to 2,102 tonnes – still comfortably the second highest year on record at the time.

It was also noted that SGE withdrawal figures do remain running well in excess of known Chinese gold imports plus domestic production so far this year (See: 2016 a crunch year for physical gold supply).  The linked article suggests total gold availability of only around 2,100 tonnes for the full year (which includes a perhaps conservative estimate of around 200 tonnes from scrap sources).  However China is extremely reticent about reporting all its import and gold supply figures, so it is conceivable the actual figure could well be higher still perhaps bringing it closer to the SGE withdrawals metric.

But be that as it may, and given the huge discrepancy between the SGE figures and those for Chinese domestic gold consumption from the major analytical consultancies, if one just looks at comparative SGE figures they will provide a great guide to the trend in Chinese domestic gold flows and consumption so these gold flows have thus been trending sharply higher this year.  With the Chinese economy continuing to expand, even though at a much slower pace than in previous years, it would not be unreasonable to assume Chinese gold demand will continue to grow alongside the nation’s GDP.  It will thus be interesting to see what next year brings.

As readers will know, China is going through a centrally planned restructuring of its economy which is moving away from being export and manufacturing driven to being domestic consumer and services oriented following a pattern much of the Western World took generations to accomplish, yet China is aiming to do this in a few short years.  It is proving to be a painful process, but perhaps not so much for the Chinese themselves, but more for those who had been relying on ever-growing Chinese manufacturing growth as their primary market for raw materials to fuel manufacturing growth.  Looking ahead China, having built new cities and a remarkable infrastructure, is well placed to build on these plans which will continue to see the domestic purchasing power of its people grow as more and more services type better paying jobs are created.  Antiquated manufacturing plants are being closed down, particularly in the ongoing drive to reduce pollution which will perhaps put China at the forefront of new technological development, further enhancing its global position.

China’s economic transformation – NOT an economic collapse

China’s Economy Is Undergoing a Huge Transformation That No One’s Talking About

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

The photo you see below was snapped recently in Beijing. It might not be that special to some readers, but in my 25 years of visiting the Chinese capital, I’ve never seen a blue sky because it’s always been blotted out by yellow smog. Beijing is clearly undergoing a massive transformation right now. This might please proponents of the green movement, but it’s ultimately harmful to the health of China’s manufacturing sector.

Blue skies ahead? A cyclist pedals through Tiananmen Squar in Beijing

On the other hand, blue skies could be ahead for China’s service industries.

Misconception and exaggeration are circling China’s economy right now like a flock of hungry buzzards. If you listen only to the popular media, you might believe that the Asian giant is teetering on the brink of economic disaster, with the Shanghai Composite Index’s recent correction and devaluation of the renminbi held up as “proof.”

Don’t get me wrong. These events are indeed significant and have real consequences. They also make for some great, sensational headlines, as I discussed earlier this month.

But what gets hardly any coverage is that China’s economy is not weakening so much as it’s changing, much like Beijing’s skies. Take a look at the following two charts, courtesy of BCA Research:

China's Economy is Shifting Away from Manufacturing More Towards Services
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You can see that the world’s second-largest economy has begun to shift away from manufacturing and more toward consumption and the service industries. While the country’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) reading has been in contraction mode since March of this year, the service industries—which include financial services, insurance, entertainment, tourism and more—are ever-expanding. The problem is that the transformation has not been fast enough to offset the massive size of the manufacturing sector.

the Czech Republic's PMI came in at an impressive 57.50 in July up from 56.90 in June

Just as a refresher, the PMI is forward-looking and resets every 30 days. It helps investors manage expectations. Consider this: The best-performing country in our Emerging Europe Fund (EUROX) is the Czech Republic—which also happens to have one of the highest PMI readings. Coincidence?

In China, overseas travel, cinema box office revenue and ecommerce are all seeing “explosive growth,” according to BCA. The country’s once-struggling real estate market is also robust. The government just relaxed rules to permit more foreigners to purchase mainland property.

But you’d be hard-pressed to come across any of this constructive news because it’s not particularly good for ratings.

A recent Economist article makes this point very clear:

The property market matters far more for China’s economy than equities do. Housing and land account for the vast majority of collateral in the financial system and play a much bigger role in spurring on growth. Yet the barrage of bearish headlines about share prices has obscured news of a property rebound. House prices have perked up nationwide for three straight months. Two months after the stock market first crashed, this upturn continues.

“Commodity Imports Have Actually Been Quite Strong”

Again, China’s transformation from a manufacturing-based economy to one that focuses on consumption has real consequences, one of the most significant being the softening of global commodity prices. As I told Daniela Cambone on last week’s Gold Game Film, gold’s Love Trade has become not a No Trade, but a Slow Trade. We’ve seen demand cool along with a decline in GDP per capita, the PMI readings and China’s M2 money supply growth.

Below you can see the relationship between China’s M2 money supply growth and metal prices. Since its peak in late 2009, money supply growth has been dropping year-over-year, driving down metal prices.

China's falling money supply since 2009 peak has driven down metal prices
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Money supply growth tends to be a “first mover.” When it has contracted, the PMI has usually followed. Recently, this has hurt economies that depend on China as a net buyer of raw materials, including Brazil, which supplies the Asian country with iron ore, soybeans and many other commodities, and Australia.

Australian Dollar and Brazilian Real Retreat with Drop in China's Money Supply
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When M2 money supply growth and the PMIs are rising, commodity prices can also rise. But that’s not what’s happening. It’s important to recognize that when new orders for finished products fall, there’s less consumption of energy to manufacture and ship. Again, this might make the greenies happy, but it’s ultimately bad for manufacturing.

I’ve said several times before that China is the 800-pound commodities gorilla, and it continues to be so. The country currently consumes about a quarter of the total global output of gold. For nickel, copper, zinc, tin and steel, it’s around half of world consumption. For aluminum, it’s more than half.

These are huge figures. But investors should know that Chinese imports of these important metals and materials still remain strong. Tom Pugh, a commodities economist at Capital Economics, told the Wall Street Journal last week that the market has it wrong about China, that the drop in demand has been overstated:

If you look at Chinese commodity imports over the last few months, they’ve actually been quite strong. A lot of it is just that people thought China would continue to grow at 10 percent a year, ad infinitum, and now people are just realizing that’s not going to happen.

Reuters took a similar stance, reporting that “there were at least 21 commodities that showed increases in imports greater than 20 percent in July this year, compared to the same month in 2014.” Weakening demand has been caused by a number of reasons, including “structural oversupply” and “the impact of the recent volatility in equity markets.”

But it’s important to keep things in perspective. Compared to past major market crashes, China’s recent correction doesn’t appear that bad.

China's Crash is Big, But Not the Biggest

Any bad news in this case can be seen as good news. I think that in the next three months we might see further monetary stimulus, following the currency debasement nearly three weeks ago. We might also see the implementation of new reforms in order to address the colossal infrastructure programs China has announced in the last couple of years, the most monumental being the “One Road, One Belt” initiative.

Dividend-Paying Stocks Helped Stanch the Losses

As investors and money managers, it’s crucial that we be cognizant of the changes China is undergoing. With volatility high in the Chinese markets right now, we’ve raised the cash level in our China Region Fund (USCOX), and after the dust settles somewhat and the right opportunities arise, we’ll be prepared to deploy the cash. We’re also diversified outside of China.

We managed to slow the losses during the Shanghai correction by being invested in high-quality, dividend-paying stocks.

According to daily data collected since December 2004, the median trailing price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio for the Shanghai Composite Index constituents currently sits at 48.6 times earnings. If it reverts to the mean, risk is 32 percent to the downside for the index. Currently, the P/E ratio of our China Region Fund constituents sits around 16 times. This suggests that USCOX has less downside risk and is cheaper than the Shanghai Composite.

Median Trailing Price-to-Earnings Ratio for Shanghai Composite Index Constituents
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We seek to take advantage of the trend toward consumption by increasing our exposure to the growing service industries—technology, Internet and ecommerce companies (Tencent is one of our top 10 holdings); financial services (AIA and Ping An Insurance); and enviornmental services (wastewater treatment services provider CT Environmental).

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson unveiling the KT Fire ANTA EARLIER THIS YEAR

Rising sports participation among white collar workers in China is very visibile these days. Xian Liang, portfolio manager of USCOX, says that his friends back in Shanghai share with him, via WeChat, how they track their daily runs using mapping apps on their phones.

With that said, an attractive company is Anta Sports, an emerging, innovative sportswear franchise. Fans of the Golden State Warriors might recall that guard Klay Thompson endorsed its products earlier this year.

We believe the China region remains one of the most compelling growth stories in the world and continues to provide exciting investment opportunities.

China: QE, Depreciation and Gold

By Frank Holmes

CEO and Chief Investment Officer
U.S. Global Investors


First it was the U.S. Federal Reserve. Then, in 2013, Japan launched what became known as Abenomics. The European Central Bank (ECB) followed suit in 2014. And now the People’s Bank of China has joined the parade.

All of them in some way stimulated economic growth by initiating monetary quantitative easing (QE) programs.

The media and politicians applauded them for their QE plans. All of them, that is, except for China. Instead, we’ve only seen a flurry of negative headlines.

I often tell investors to follow the money, which currently is cheap to borrow. Cheap money is good for stock prices, but not for retired folks who have most of their savings in term deposits with low interest yields.

Most important for commodity investors is the powerful correlation between China’s money supply and commodity prices. The money supply peaked in 2011 and has been falling along with commodity prices.

On Monday, China unexpectedly trimmed the value of its currency, the renminbi, 2 percent, the most in two decades. In the days since, many analysts and “experts” have irrationally turned sour on the Asian country, similar to the extreme bearishness toward gold in the last month.

But investors last week came home to the yellow metal after China announced it had increased its gold reserves by an additional 19 tonnes in July, boosting its total holdings to 1,677 tonnes (nearly 54 million ounces). This helped prices rally 1.4 percent on Wednesday to reach $1,124.46, a three-week high.

Investors should likewise return to China when they realize that the global reaction to the renminbi devaluation has been hugely overblown. I agree entirely with my friend Addison Wiggins, who writes in his Daily Reckoning newsletter:

The market is up in arms about this currency move. And frankly most things that I read from the market have it all wrong…

They make China out to be the big, bad villain—calling this move manipulation or a “currency war.” And while EVERYTHING that central banks do is indeed manipulation or a “currency war”—why don’t we hear those terms thrown around the ECB or the U.S. Fed?

To help cut through the noise and get a more balanced picture of devaluation’s causes, effects and possible ramifications, I chatted with our resident Asia expert Xian Liang, portfolio manager of our China Region Fund (USCOX). Below are some of the highlights.

As you know, we follow currencies very closely in our investment team meetings because we’re aware that government policy is a precursor to change. Having said that, why did China decide to devalue the renminbi?

There are several possible reasons, the first one being economics—specifically, to stimulate economic growth and ease liquidity in the financial sector. A weaker renminbi can help make Chinese exports cheaper for foreigners and imports dearer for locals, creating the incentive for a “net inflow” of money. July data shows that economic activity remains worse than expected. China’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) reading for the month is one example, but fixed-asset investments, power generation and exports were all down.

click to enlarge

Deflationary pressure also intensified in July, and the renminbi in trade-weighted terms—that is, against a whole basket of major trading partners’ currencies, not just the dollar—has soared to record highs. This is because of a de facto peg to the dollar, making Chinese goods and services uncompetitively priced to world customers.

Another reason is domestic politics. Chinese policymakers want to resurrect their reformist image among domestic intellectuals and the middle class by yielding more power to market forces to determine its currency exchange rate, which offers some compensation for July’s aggressive, command-and-control intervention in the A-Share market.

And then there’s international politics. It’s well known that China wishes its currency to be included in the International Monetary Fund’s special drawing rights basket, along with the U.S. dollar, euro, British pound and Japanese yen. Chinese policymakers are actively demonstrating to the IMF their commitment to “a more market-determined exchange rate,” a critical step toward eventual renminbi internationalization.

Many countries have devalued their currencies lately—Japan, Germany, France and others. Business Insider, in fact, just shared a Goldman Sachs chart showing how miniscule the renminbi’s depreciation really is compared to other emerging countries’ currencies. And yet China gets singled out in the media! Why is everyone so hard on China?

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What’s usually not mentioned in all the news and editorials we’ve seen is that China hasn’t resorted to currency devaluation in 20 years. For the last decade, the renminbi was largely moving in a single direction—up—because China was tired of being dubbed a currency manipulator and it would like to foster consumerism.

As the second-largest economy in the world, China is interested in transforming its growth model from investment-driven to consumer-driven, and some investors might wonder how the devaluation will affect consumption. Today, the richer Chinese middle class is made up of big spenders, both home and abroad, and a weaker renminbi translates to weaker purchasing power for them. It might also have larger implications for global tourism, global consumer goods and global property. So the difference between China and, say, France is pretty significant.

click to enlarge

A lot of people think the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates this year—maybe even as early as September—though I’ve expressed doubts about that. Will the devaluation have any effect on the Fed’s decision?

To the extent that it weakens its own currency, China exports deflation to the U.S. and can help the dollar’s strength. Lower inflation and a stronger dollar reduce the incentive or rationale for any imminent Fed rate hike. So yes, you can almost say this is China’s silent protest against the widely anticipated September hike. China seems to be reminding Janet Yellen that in today’s interconnected world, unilateral monetary policy action by the U.S. without first considering global dynamics might not be the smartest thing to do. In effect, it’s saying: “Here’s a preview of what could happen if you insist on hiking rates this year.”

Is this a sign of further reforms? What else can we expect?

The devaluation does indeed herald back to the days of major Chinese reform. In fact, it occurred one day after China approved a comprehensive plan to reform its state-owned enterprises to make them more market-driven, similar to those in Singapore. So at least the government welcomes the perception that the devaluation has more to do with long-term structural reform and less to do with short-term expediency.

Investors are being bombarded with bad news about China right now. There have been some very negative headlines. Where’s the good news in all this?

Here’s the simple answer: A weaker currency not only helps Chinese exporters but also U.S. consumers. Whether you buy things made in China or are planning your next vacation there, you’ve got money to save now. Opportunities have also been expanded for U.S. retailers and manufacturers that source from China, not to mention U.S. airlines. And if you’re in the camp that believes this devaluation is the start of a new “currency war,” then it might be time for gold to shine.

Gold’s Safe Haven Status Never Disappeared
Countries with largest gold holdings

Indeed, gold tends to benefit the most when there are global currency fluctuations. Last week was no exception, as the metal had its best week since June. Many analysts, it seems, prematurely declared that gold has lost its safe haven status because it fell to five-year lows during the height of Greece’s and Puerto Rico’s debt crises.

But as I explained last month, gold is behaving this way not because it’s lost anything. Instead, there are external forces at work here, including the strong U.S. dollar, fears of rising interest rates and a slowing global economy, not to mention possible price manipulation. Despite these powerful headwinds, gold managed to hold strong the week before last as media giants’ stock plummeted, erasing $60 billion in stock value.

Speaking of gold and mining, I’ll be in Lima, Peru during the first week in November to attend the Mining & Investment Latin America Summit, where I’m scheduled to deliver the opening keynote address. I’ll be speaking on mining around the world, macro trends and opportunities and challenges in the upcoming year. For those of you interested in attending, you can register here. I’d love to see you there!

China govt buying implications for gold price

On Wednesday New York closed at $1,097.20 up another $1.60. The dollar was a cent stronger at $1.0963, with the dollar Index stronger at 97.31 up from 96.64. This morning the LBMA gold price was set at $1,085.65 down $1.10. The euro equivalent was €989.43 down €1.80 on yesterday. Ahead of New York’s opening, gold was trading in London at $1,087.00 and in the euro at €992.11.

The silver price closed at $14.82 up 14 cents in New York. Ahead of New York’s opening it was trading at $14.67.

After the Fed’s almost neutral announcement after its 2-day meeting the dollar went stronger and dealers marked down the gold price in line with that strength. It had rallied initially after the FOMC statement which did not refer to any timing for a rate hike, but the media continues to  quote Janet Yellen confirming there would be a rate hike this year. Despite the inadequacies of the ongoing guessing of the timing of a rate hike, it persists and dealers adjust their books slightly, so as not to be caught off guard. Hence the move down in gold is entirely due to currency considerations.

There have been no sales or purchases of gold into or from the SPDR gold ETF or Gold Trust.  The holdings of the SPDR gold ETF are at 680.154 tonnes and 163.55 tonnes [down 0.30 of a tonne] in the Gold Trust.

A trader in Chinese shares that specialized in shorting them, had to leave the country and a colleague of his was imprisoned some time ago.  This amply demonstrates the dangers of going against government policy in China. With the crash in share prices there and the government’s support for the market now more than visible, many feel that the opportunities there are now to the upside.

Our comment that it may well be arms of government that have picked up the gold dumped in China two weeks ago, may well carry implications for the downside on the gold price. If it did indeed happen, then we do not expect much more selling in the bear raid manner in the future. We are watching with great interest to see if more attempts will be made to hammer the gold price soon.

If they don’t then we can expect that any positive news for gold will have a positive impact on the gold price.

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

Spin on gold, China, Russia and everything else out of control


Am I just getting cynical in my old age or is everything one reads in the media becoming more and more suspect as to its provenance?  Even this article will undoubtedly reflect some of my own prejudices, but at least they are my prejudices and not fed to me by some monolithic organisation trying to manipulate global thinking.

Americans in particular in the run up to the next Presidential election will be fed all kinds of propaganda for and against the various candidates.  Some will be true, some will be half truths, and some may well be downright lies, but it may be impossible for the general public on the receiving end to know which is which.  The frightening thing is that whoever’s team is most successful in spinning their candidates’ suitability will win the election.  Their sponsor will then be at the head of the most powerful nation on earth.  And the spin will continue at the same kind of level throughout the Presidency.  And the same will apply in leadership elections in virtually any country.

And of course the same factors are being applied in global economics and geopolitics.  The media is force-fed with often axe-to-grind data and opinion designed to move markets, vilify or beatify whole countries and institutions, politicians, business leaders etc. – no-one is immune.  Modern day spin is out of control.

Personally I have a specific interest in precious metals, and in gold in particular as a long term wealth protector.  I readily admit that my articles will probably favour a pro-gold conclusion, although I do try to be rather more balanced in my opinions than many of my peers and look at both upsides and downsides rather than just the one or the other.  I am ever increasingly dismayed therefore by the plethora of opinion and dubious ‘fact’ which appears in the mainstream media in particular.  This only seems designed to try to downplay gold and its role in global economics by attempting to make it ever less attractive to investors.  Thereby to reduce gold’s influence in the global economic picture and try to drive it out of peoples’ understanding as a potential brake on profligate government spending via the degradation of fiat currencies by unchecked money printing.

But of course the spin doctors are not just anti-gold.  They target just about anything and everything which the establishment doesn’t like.  In the West Russia, and its leader President Putin, for example, have come in for enormous vilification over policies on matters occurring on its borders.  The Russian point of view over the expansion of NATO ever eastwards is totally disregarded as irrelevant.  The U.S.A. is lucky in that it has not faced potentially hostile military forces close to its borders since the Cuban missile crisis and, to an extent Russia sees the NATO moves, or potential moves, to move ever closer to its borders as its equivalent of the Russian missiles in Cuba.

In Russia itself, of course the reverse is true.  Any economic difficulties are laid fair and square as being the result of dirty tricks by the Americans and their allies and President Putin is portrayed as a hero standing up to American-instigated aggression – and has domestic popularity ratings which any U.S. president would give their eye-teeth for.  True the Russian state  is rather less tolerant of opposition than Western ‘democracies’ and more controlling of its own media which makes this task easier.  But this is still spin.

China too is beginning to be seen as a threat to American global political and financial hegemony, so we can expect more and more media attacks on Chinese policies and institutions.  One wonders, for example if the very recent, hugely blatant, gold flash crash, being blamed by much of the Western media by insinuation as being instigated by Chinese hedge funds, despite it starting in New York, was designed both to be anti-gold, but also to cast doubts on the position of the rapidly growing Chinese financial and futures exchanges.  These are seen as a threat to Western control of key markets and anything which can set back their progress towards overtaking their American counterparts (which seems inevitable long term) would not upset the latter!  With the IMF considering inclusion of the Chinese yuan in its SDR currency basket, which the U.S. establishment may see as a threat to its position as the main global reserve currency, with the enormous trade and financial benefits that brings with it, anything that might cast aspersions on the integrity of the Chinese markets could be seen as beneficial!

As an example of double standards here and in political spin, one only has to look at Afghanistan, which geographically might be considered in the Former Soviet Union’s geographical sphere of influence.  When Russia put troops into the country in 1979, supposedly in support of the then Afghan government, this was hugely condemned by the West – to the extent of supplying the Afghan Mujahiddin with weapons to fight the Russian ‘invaders’.  Fast forward 22 years with the Russians having withdrawn in 1989, the U.S. and its allies went in to Afghanistan on much the same grounds as the FSU had earlier – but this was a just intervention as far as western political spin to the media was concerned.  Of course Western political spin came up with good reasons for the American ‘intervention’, just as it had with condemnation for the Russian ‘invasion’ although the two sequential super-power involvements look to have been almost identical in purpose – but one to prop up a Communist leaning government and the other to do the same for a Western leaning one.  Such is political spin.

So what point am I making here?  Primarily don’t necessarily believe anything you read in the mainstream media which could have been placed to suit some government or financial institution’s political or economic agenda.  Someone’s likely paying for it big time and it’s for their own benefit, not yours!

As I said at the beginning, I have a specific interest in gold as a long term store of wealth and my personal prejudices and feelings will show up in the above article.  But, despite my views on Afghanistan above,  I’m not what used to be described in the U.S. press as some pinko-liberal – indeed politically I probably fall on the right wing side of things in the European context (i.e. not as far right as the American right!).  This article has thus been prompted by the enormous volume of anti-gold propaganda in the mainstream media – described as reaching bubble proportions by one commentator yesterday.  Much of this negative spin is by insinuation rather than by condemnation, and in many respects that is the more dangerous as it makes readers think they are coming to the desired conclusion by themselves rather than being told what to do.

Modern day political and economic spin is dangerous, but in this day of global news and comment dissemination by internet we all have to live with it.  The important thing is to understand that it is an integral part of modern day propaganda and to consciously try and reason things out for oneself rather than just follow the mainstream media and the herd.

Potential for instability and uncertainty increasing: World heading for extreme times.

Julian Phillips’ analysis of what’s happening in the gold and silver markets, sees some very uncertain times ahead.

New York closed at $1,162.40 up $3.60 with Asia and London holding it there in a barely changed market. The dollar was weaker at $1,1107 down from $1.1033 against the euro with the dollar Index 96.11 down from 96.50.  The LBMA gold price was set this morning at $1,162.40 up only $0.30. The euro equivalent was €1,038.27 down €14.69. Ahead of New York’s opening, gold was trading in London at $1,160.10 and in the euro at €1,037.01.

The silver price rose to $15.46 up 32 cents in New York. Ahead of New York’s opening it was also trading at $15.46.

Has Tsiprias done enough? Has he committed political suicide? Will he get the Greek Parliament’s backing? Will the E.U. feel it is enough? The German Finance Minister agrees that Greece cannot repay its current debt, but will not go with a debt write down. Better to make repayment last for 40+ more years at a miniscule interest rate, he feels. A rose by any other name? Monday will see if this issue will impact the exchange rate of the euro or not. The dollar gold price is relatively unmoved but with the euro climbing the euro price of gold is falling. Next week could prove dramatic! Certainly it looks as though, at last, there could be a resolution to the story? Markets are, on balance looking for the E.U. to accept the latest Greek offer, but we would rather wait and see. Until next week we do not see any really strong moves in currencies or precious metals.

The Chinese government’s ‘shackling’ of the Shanghai equity market is more a clash between Communism and free markets than it is of global economic concern. China had thought that it was a way of increasing wealth but did not account for speculation.

With the IMF lowering global economic growth forecasts and, in particular, that of the U.S., the potential for instability and uncertainty has increased. This takes us towards extreme times. With the Fed looking at the end of this year or next before raising interest rates, they too are keeping their heads down. What is important about these downward looking prospects is that this is all that has been achieved after 7 years of efforts to stimulate the global economy and in particular the U.S. economy. Is the global economy on a self-sustaining road forward to better times? That’s not what we are hearing. So are we at the bottom for gold and silver prices? With China aiming to have more control over the gold price and to inject the Yuan into the global monetary system there is a case to be made for this thought.

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

Gold price set by US but buying is in Asia and elsewhere

My latest article on Mineweb looks at  the hugely anomalous situation whereby the gold price is effectively set by the U.S. market, but gold demand is virtually all elsewhere – primarily in Asia where, of course, China and India dominate.  The price currently fluctuates around U.S. economic data and whether this is likely to lead to the Fed raising interest rates sooner rather than later, but where the gold is being bought whether U.S. interest rates may rise a quarter of a basis point in June, September or whenever is a total irrelevance.

China in particular is well aware of this and is making moves to have more control over gold price setting itself, and it is interesting also that many of its recent initiatives – the latest being the setting up of the $16 billion Silk Road gold fund – involve gold.  China certainly sees gold as playing an increasing role in global finance and trade, and here it is aligned with Russia which has been adding to its own gold reserves on a regular basis.  It is widely believed that China is doing so too, but without reporting the additions to the IMF until it deems it politically expedient to do so.

China also feels that the U.S. in particular is trying to sideline it economically, as the former is worried about the latter’s potential impact on the U.S.’s hitherto dominant position in world trade through the dollar’s use as the world’s reserve currency.  China want the yuan to have a much greater role – and if it sees this as being blocked by the U.S. it sets up parallel institutions to rival the U.S. dominated ones – the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is a prime example which could grow to rival the World bank and the IMF.  There is also a belief that China may be preparing to set up a rival to the IMF’s super currency – the SDR – if it blocked from becoming part of this currency basket again this year.

Interesting times in the global financial sector.#

To read the Mineweb article click on: Gold: The U.S. sets the price but Asia does the buying

HK to China gold exports way down; SGE gold withdrawals way up. What gives?

Lawrie Williams

As can be seen from the excellent chart from below, we are seeing quite a divergence in statistics between Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) gold withdrawals so far this year and gold exports to mainland China from Hong Kong, which used to be seen as a proxy for total Chinese imports, but should now be discounted as such.  That is because China last year eased some of its direct import controls which may mean that perhaps as much as 40% of Chinese gold imports are currently going direct to the mainland, completely bypassing Hong Kong.  Direct mainland gold imports built up decidedly in 2015 as seen from gold export statistics published by countries such as Switzerland, the UK and the U.S.


But so saying, SGE withdrawals in week 20 (the week ending May 22nd) came to 43.4 tonnes, bringing the year to date total to 946 tonnes – around 20% up on the same week a year ago when the full year total came to 2,102.4 tonnes and also 8% higher than at the same time in the 2013 record year when the full year total was 2,197 tonnes and included a massive withdrawal week of around 117 tonnes in early May after the extraordinary COMEX gold take-down at the end of April that year.

By contrast Hong Kong net gold exports to China have, according to Bloomberg, apparently dipped to 46.6 tonnes in April from 61.8 tonnes in March and 65.4 tonnes a year earlier.  Much of the fall from April 2014 will have been due to more shipments bypassing Hong Kong, but the fall from the March 2015 figure seems to be something of an outlier given the still high levels of gold movements out of the SGE.

While there have been doubts expressed that SGE withdrawals are indeed equivalent to Chinese retail demand, it remains that all gold imported into China – either directly or via Hong Kong – together with China’s own gold production – around 460 tonnes last year – has to pass through the SGE.  Some will aver that this thus represents total Chinese consumption, but the mainstream western analysts (such as CPM, GFMS and Metals Focus) come up with far lower consumption figures (indeed 1,000 tonnes lower or more), but do recognise that SGE gold withdrawal volumes need to be accounted for somehow, but are mostly rather vague on how the discrepancy between their figures and the SGE ones arise.  Part of the discrepancy comes from a rigid interpretation of what actually comprises consumption, and there may also be an element of double counting in SGE figures with recycled gold coming back in and then out again, but this will be small. Now too figures are slightly muddied by movements in and out of the Exchange’s International section – the SGEI – but Koos Jansen, who perhaps follows the figures more closely than any other analyst, estimates the volume here so far this year as only distorting the overall figure by just under 13 tonnes. There is also an important element in gold apparently utilised within China in financial transactions and as collateral by the banks and other financial institutions, but this is highly unlikely to account for much of the differences.

Gold analyst Philip Klapwijk (former executive chairman of GFMS), who nowadays has based himself in Hong Kong and is thus close to the action, states that there has been a substantial amount of gold shipped trans-border from mainland China into Hong Kong for remelting – mostly technically illegally – which could account for the big differences as it is generally assumed that China exports no gold.  But given Hong Kong is treated statistically by the Chinese as a separate country this zero export number is obviously not the case, according to Klapwijk at least.  He put the figures as around 1,200 tonnes last year and, with an element of round tripping likely involved, this could have distorted the Hong Kong to China net gold trade somewhat.

In Q1 this year though, Klapwijk reckons the volumes of such ‘exports’ has dived dramatically as the Chinese authorities have been clamping down severely on this cross-border gold trade with Hong Kong.  But if movements to Hong Kong have fallen as dramatically as Klapwijk reckons, yet SGE withdrawals are even up on last year, this gold has to be going somewhere on the mainland.  How this will tie in with Chinese gold ‘consumption’ figures in the next quarterly analyses by the big gold consultancies is anybody’s guess.  Our best guess is they will still see ‘consumption’ drop a little in line with current reports out of China of a fall-off in jewellery demand, which begs the question as to where all this excess gold coming out of the SGE is headed?  Despite denials it has to be possible the excesses are somehow being absorbed by the PBoC – the Chinese Central Bank.  Given the Chinese have a track record of hiding the PBoC’s true gold holdings in non-reportable accounts, this excess gold could be finding its way into similar accounts thus enabling the PBoC to stick to the position that it doesn’t buy gold from the SGE.  As always there is a degree of opacity here which is hard to break through with the Chinese always playing their key economic cards close to their chest.  Draw your own conclusions here – they are probably just as good as ours!

China on a gold standard? Food for thought at least

By Lawrie Williams

Earlier this week I penned an article based on a talk by Ken Hoffmann, Bloomberg’s Global Head of Metals & Mining Research at the Global Mining Finance Precious and Base Metals Conference in London.  This was published on Mineweb and has already attracted extremely strong readership from around the world – See: Will China go for a gold standard? The jury is out!

In it, Hofmann set out what some might consider an off-the-wall appraisal of possible Chinese moves to back its currency with gold to try and help cement the yuan’s position as a potential future reserve currency.  This, it feels, could go a long way towards other countries’ central banks accepting the yuan as an integral part of their foreign currency holdings, perhaps even pari  passu with the U.S. dollar.

Hofmann puts forward the viewpoint that the Chinese are exasperated by the West trying to treat the nation as a second class citizen on global trade and economic organisations, despite it being the world’s second largest economy – or some would even put it at No.1.  The Chinese administration is also of the opinion that the U.S. is obstructing Chinese efforts to gain a place at the global table commensurate with its economic standing as the U.S. sees China as a competitor to its global dominance of trade, and all the advantages that brings to the U.S. economy and place in the world order.

Other media picked Hoffmann’s hypothesis up, but in effect only appeared to look at how much gold China would need, or what gold price would be required, to fully back the yuan with gold in the manner of the old gold standard – perhaps with the implication that this is some kind of crackpot idea which puts Hoffmann in the ‘gold cultists’ mega-price camp.

Yet this was not really what Hoffmann was suggesting.  He effectively said that he did not know how China could achieve this but that the Chinese tend to view things in a totally different manner to the West and can move at lightning speed in comparison and might, by thinking outside the box, come up with some solution which could satisfactorily at least partially link the yuan to gold.  This would hugely enhance the currency’s status in the eyes, perhaps not of the major Western central banks, but for state banks in other parts of the world – notably in Asia, Africa and Latin America where there may be a more natural positive association with gold as a key indicator of financial strength. Indeed in many cultures gold is viewed  as the ultimate in financial probity and a symbol of wealth and power, regardless of the opinions of today’s mostly Keynesian economists who say that gold has no place in the modern financial system.

Central bankers are opposed to gold because it imposes disciplines, and ever since President Nixon dropped the dollar’s gold backing, the world’s central banks have seemed to have gradually seen this as carte blanche to allow monetary easing on an unprecedented scale and bring the global economy to the perilous state it finds itself in today.  Today’s economists, except perhaps those who follow the Austrian School, and bankers are almost unanimous in their opinions that gold should play no place in global economic thinking.  Yet the major Western nations’ central banks are for the most part hugely reluctant to part with any of their accumulated gold reserve – something of a contradiction in attitudes.  Gold obviously still has a place deep down in their collective psyches!

Today, at Bloomberg’s own  Precious Metals forum in London, Hoffmann gave a further short talk setting out the hypothesis – seeing the possibility of China going down this route as a possible Black Swan scenario.  While, in a short article released at the event he admits that the backing of the yuan fully by gold is an exercise that is highly unlikely and that in any case the Chinese government would not wish to have its monetary policy hands tied to the extent a traditional gold standard would suggest.  Indeed he admits that while the debate on this is an interesting one, ‘the idea of China on the gold standard is likely to remain in the alchemist’s lab for now’.

So what Hoffmann has done is to bring the idea of a Chinese introduction of some form of gold standard into the debate and for that he should be praised rather than vilified by those who find the whole idea counter to their own views.  The Chinese are indeed capable of springing surprises on the West.  As pointed out earlier the Chinese have a different way of thinking than us westerners.  They tend to operate with the kind of long term game plan no longer even considered in most capitalist countries and with a centrally controlled economy are perhaps far better placed to implement economic reforms which are to their ultimate benefit which might be considered impossible in the Western thought train.

So while a Chinese return to some kind of gold standard may be extremely unlikely, one perhaps should not write the idea off as totally impossible, and Hoffmann has done us a favour in getting us to think outside the box ourselves.

China-driven AIIB sees currency wars heating up – Holmes

By Frank Holmes – CEO and Chief Investment officer for U.S. Global Investors –

Tuesday marked the last day that countries could submit their applications to become founding members of the new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). As of this writing, a little over 40 nations have either already been approved or have applied for membership, including strong U.S. allies such as Britain, Germany and Australia.

Notable absentees, as you can see below, are the U.S. and Japan.

Countries that Have Joined or Applied to Join Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

Conceived to serve as an alternative to Western-dominated sources of credit such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asian Development Bank, the AIIB will aim to invest in regional infrastructure projects ranging from energy to transportation to telecommunications.

The new development bank, which is expected to launch later this year, will have $100 billion in capital to begin with—a massive mountain of money, to be sure, but it falls far short of the estimated trillions that will be necessary to fund Asia’s astronomical infrastructure demand.

China’s creation of its own global bank highlights the country’s desire to wield more control over funding such projects. It currently commands only 5.17 percent of the vote in the World Bank and 3.81 percent in the IMF.

China is aiming for its currency to become part of the Special Drawing Right (SDR), the International Monetary Fund's composite currency unit.

And so the currency wars continue to heat up. China’s move demonstrates its ongoing efforts to establish the yuan as a global reserve currency on par with the U.S. dollar. It’s no secret that the country wants the yuan to become part of the IMF’s Special Drawing Right (SDR), a composite currency unit that now consists of the dollar, Japanese yen, British pound sterling and euro. The founding of the AIIB might very well bring the country closer to realizing these goals.

A-Shares Headed Higher

Chinese stocks are currently having a moment. Mainland A-shares, as measured by the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, are up an incredible 92 percent for the 12-month period on the back of strong recent performance in the financial, property and infrastructure industries.

There’s generally a high correlation between the A-share market and China and Hong Kong, but the A-shares have outperformed by a wide margin over the past year.

Shanghai Composite's Breakout Continues

Last Wednesday the index fell a slight 0.8 percent, ending a 10-day rally that contributed 12 percent, its longest winning streak in 23 years.

Chinese policymakers have recently eased quota controls for foreign investors in mainland stocks and bonds, as they promote the yuan to be accepted as an SDR. The potential for greater inflows into the market should help the Shanghai Composite head even higher.

Our China Region Fund (USCOX) has participated in this rally through the Morgan Stanley China A Share Fund and a closed-end fund.

Read more about China:

  • China Consumes More Gold Than the World Produces
    “What’s not so well-known—but just as amazing—is that China’s supply of the precious metal per capita is actually low compared to neighboring Asian countries such as Taiwan and Singapore.”
  • China Just Crossed a Landmark Threshold
    “One of the most headline-worthy developments is China’s $16.3-billion infrastructure initiative intended to revive trading routes along the centuries-old Silk Road. Thousands of miles of railways, roads and pipelines will link Beijing to major markets all over Asia, Africa and Europe.”
  • China Wants to Conduct the World’s High-Speed Rail Market
    “In recent months, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has emerged as the nation’s top salesman for what he calls the ‘New Silk Road’—miles upon miles of high-speed transportation connecting all corners of the world. His plan might very well become one of China’s most lucrative exports and culturally significant contributions to the world: fast, efficient and reliable railways.”

Chinese and Indian growth targets will benefit gold hugely

Julian Phillips’ daily roundup of what is happening in the gold and silver markets and the market forces driving them

The gold price remains under the influence of arbitrageurs working the gold price, the euro and the dollar exchange rates even after the announcement, with details of the E.C.B.’ quantitative easing policies. The immediate impact of this statement and following details was to see the euro continue to fall, as Draghi wants. The process of digesting the statements will continue today and fully impact next week. In the meantime, gold is now sitting just below $1,200 but not so far as to break down.

Please note that the dollar index has jumped this week to 96.80 a new high. But gold has just about kept pace with the rise, taking gold up against all other currencies.

Asia too has been lackluster this morning. The government of China announced yesterday that growth [GDP] will only target 7% this year. This number does not tell the full story at all. The government has built the infrastructure for the nation, now it needs to get its people to use it fully and develop a consumer [demand] driven economy that brings with it sustainable growth. This is the hard part. But from a gold investor’s standpoint this is positive news as it is the new wealth and the growing wealth of the current middle classes that will buy gold. Efforts to increase their wealth, as is the target of the government, will benefit gold hugely. Bear in mind a greater Chinese level of demand for gold will take it beyond the capacity of the gold market supplies to satisfy it.

With Modi’s government in India setting similar goals for his middle classes Indian demand for gold will steadily increase too.

ETFs and Markets

There were no sales or purchases from or into the SPDR gold ETF or the Gold Trust yesterday. The holdings of the SPDR gold ETF are at 760.799 tonnes and at 165.46 tonnes in the Gold Trust.

New York closed at $1,198.00 down $1.40 in a thin market still dominated by currency issues. Asia took the gold price up slightly to $1,198.90 before London pulled it down to $1,194. London then Fixed the gold price at $1,196.50 down $3.25 and in the euro, at €1,090.602 up €4.561, while the euro was at $1.0971 down nearly three quarters of a cent again. Ahead of New York’s opening, gold was trading in London at $1,196.40 and in the euro at €1,093.25.

The silver price closed at $16.21 up 3 cents. Ahead of New York’s opening it was trading at $16.05. We feel that the silver price may well drop much faster than gold if the gold price falls further, but as Asian demand comes in we expect the silver price to recover quickly once more.

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


Does China have 30,000 tonnes of gold stashed away?

A highly respected analyst quotes research suggesting that China built up a huge stash of gold between 1979 and 2003, and has been adding to it recently – and all without declaring this to the IMF.

Lawrence Williams

A note from very well respected analyst and China watcher, Simon Hunt*, has come up with the intriguing suggestion that China may actually have as much as 30,000 tonnes of gold hidden away in various accounts rather than the 1,054.6 tonnes it declares to the IMF.  It is widely believed that China has indeed been accumulating additional gold for its reserves secretly over the last few years, but Hunt’s note also cites research by Alasdair Macleod of Gold Money published last year that China has accumulated some 25,000 tonnes of gold when the gold price was very low between 1983 and 2002.  Hunt rates Macleod’s research very highly, referring to him as the world’s top gold analyst.

Hunt goes on to state that China is planning to link its currency to gold within the next three years, but first will have to make some swingeing internal financial reforms which will have a strong impact on global financial markets – and not a positive impact!

He also comments that his dealings with the Chinese suggest that the country does not wish the yuan to become THE or A global reserve currency, but just wishes to be able to trade directly in yuan rather than via a dollar route – a process which is already under way as it has set up bilateral trade deals in yuan  with around 28 countries already and has established a trading hub in Zurich.

I’ve gone into this in a bit more detail in an article published on – See: Could China actually have 30,000 tonnes of gold in reserves?.

This suggestion may seem a bit far fetched, but China has a penchant for ultra long term planning as a centrally planned economy, and certainly had the wherewithal, and perhaps the incentive, to achieve this given its huge trade surpluses and a desire to be less reliant on what it has seen as a vulnerable  U.S. dollar in its foreign currency reserves.

As an added note though, well known gold analyst Martin Murenbeeld reckons these huge stock figures should perhaps just be classified as wild estimates.  He says the question that needs to be asked is where the supply might have come from?  “Did GFMS, CPM, etc all miss the supply side – assuming the 30,000 tonne demand stockpile is correct?” he says.  “In short, the data tabulators didn’t just miss the demand side of the market, they also missed the supply side. How likely is that?”

*Simon Hunt has been in the commodity analysis business for many years.  He was one of the two founders of hugely respected metals commodities consultancy Brook Hunt which nowadays has been absorbed into Wood Mackenzie and nowadays runs his own commodities advisory service in Simon Hunt Strategic Services –



Into Africa – China’s resource investment target

Frank Holmes, Chief Investment Officer for U.S. Global Investors, in his keynote panel presentation at the Cape Town Mining Indaba, reckons that China has already passed the $100 billion outward investment mark.  One of the key areas for this is to tie down future supplies of vital natural resources and Africa is a vital area for much of the Asian dragon’s resource investment.

Back in July 2013, the think tank Heritage Foundation predicted that China’s outbound investment “could very well exceed $80 billion [by the end of the year] and is on course to breach $100 billion by about 2016.”

With all due respect to the Heritage Foundation, China just beat the forecast by a couple of years, exceeding the $100 billion mark at the end of 2014. For the first time, in fact, China invested more capital outside its own borders than it did inside. As legendary Major League Baseball player and coach Yogi Berra once quipped: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Be that as it may, it’s now estimated that within the next decade, China will have invested a staggering $1.25 trillion into the global market.

It was once said that the sun never sets on the British Empire. Now the same might be said of China’s growing influence around the world.

In 2014, China Channeled Over $100 Billion into 156 Countries and Regions Around the Globe

“As China’s domestic infrastructure expansion matures and the yuan’s purchasing power rises, Chinese companies are seeking overseas opportunities so they’re not pigeonholed in any one marketplace,” says Xian Liang, portfolio manager of our China Region Fund (USCOX).

When you consider world economies using purchasing-power parity, China’s actually surpassed America’s in the second half last year.

Gross Domestic Product in Absolute Terms, GDP on Purchasing Power PArity Valuation
click to enlarge

One of the most headline-worthy developments is China’s $16.3-billion infrastructure initiative intended to revive trading routes along the centuries-old Silk Road. Thousands of miles of railways, roads and pipelines will link Beijing to major markets all over Asia, Africa and Europe.

Many are already likening the new Silk Road undertaking to the Marshall Plan, the large-scale U.S. program that aided Europe following World War II and helped secure America’s role as the world’s leading superpower.

Into Africa

We all know that China is a big place with lots of people. As such, it requires unfathomable amounts of resources, for which it’s spending historic amounts of money. Between 2005 and June 2013, China spent $202 billion globally on energy and power, $100 billion on metals and $18 billion on agriculture.

Much of this capital is being channeled into Africa, home to about 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land. If irrigated and optimized properly, Africa’s land has the potential to supply the same percentage of the world’s food needs. The continent is also home to 30 percent of the world’s minerals, with a large percentage of the deposits being platinum, diamonds and gold.

Eleven African Countries Are Among The Top Ten Global Resource Countries In At Least One Major Mineral
click to enlarge

Since 2005, China’s spending in Africa has jumped 30 percent, and in 2009 it became the continent’s largest trading partner, surpassing the U.S. Every year it exchanges around $160 billion in goods with Africa, but with China’s middle class growing in number and demanding a higher quality of living, we expect that figure to surge.

Goods Trade with Africa in 2013Its largest trading partner among all African countries is South Africa, where I’m attending the 2015 Investing in African Mining Indaba and participating in a keynote panel on mining opportunities on the continent. Twenty years ago, we were the initial speakers at the creation of this event when there were only around 100 attendees. Last year, there were over 6,000, making it the biggest mining conference in Africa.

Some economists are suggesting that Africa is shaping up to be “China’s Second Continent,” the title of New York Times journalist Howard W. French’s 2014 book. Just as the Roman Empire reshaped and brought together disparate European cultures through its sophisticated network of roads, China’s presence in Africa promises to have a long-lasting effect on the continent’s financial wellbeing. Roads, mines, hospitals, schools and other important infrastructure are being financed and built at a rapid pace. Last November, for example, China Rail Construction Corp. signed a $12-billion high-speed rail construction deal with Nigeria.

Cape Town

Funneling Capital Around the World

Back in December, I discussed at length Premier Li Keqiang’s desire to turn China into the go-to country for the world’s high-speed rail construction. The country also shows signs of becoming a major creditor on the scale of the World Bank. According to Business Insider, it’s already overtaken other nations as a “primary source of credit for the developing world.”

The article continues: “When China invests in one country, it quickly becomes the biggest creditor, sometimes to the extent of altering the economic and diplomatic scenario.” Many developing countries now owe China many times more what they receive from the International Monetary Fund.

Last week, for instance, we learned that Chinese President Xi Jinping promised $250 billion in investment in Latin American countries over the next decade. China will be buying copper from Chile and Peru, oil from Venezuela and soybeans from Brazil and Argentina. Xi and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner also agreed on a deal that would see China cooperate with the Latin American country on two nuclear power plants.

The packaging displays the U.S. flag on the front and pictures of Smithfield, Virginia, home to Smithfield Foods, on the backIt’s not just developing countries China has invested in. Since 2007, the U.S. has received around $72 billion. Among the American brands that Chinese companies have purchased are AMC Entertainment, Inc., IBM’s personal computer division and meat giant Smithfield Foods. WH Group, which owns the Shuanghui brand, acquired Smithfield in 2013 and is now introducing imported U.S. pork to the local Chinese market.

“Because of various food-related scandals in the last five to seven years, the average Chinese citizen tends to trust foreign food brands more than domestic brands,” Xian says.

This is just one of many examples of the Chinese preferring American brands to others. Buick, the best-selling automobile manufacturer in the Asian country, sold 1 million vehicles in 2013—810,000 of those in China.

China Ramping up Business Creation

Indeed, the U.S. continues to be the engine of the world in a time of Chinese and European deflationary risks. Having said that, I’m troubled by the fact that American business startups have been steadily declining over the past 30 years. For the first time in 2008, the “death rate” of businesses crossed above the “birth rate.”

U.S. Business CLosings Hold Steady while Business Startups Decline
click to enlarge

Although Gallup says that “there has been no definitive answer as to why the rate of U.S. startups has declined so precipitously,” it seems likely that ever-expanding and restrictive government regulations play a huge role.

Now compare this to what’s happening in China:

China's Reduction of Red Tape Has Increased Busines Start-ups, Despite Slowing Growth
click to enlarge

Back in October, I pointed out that China has slashed hundreds of lines of red tape in an effort to jumpstart economic growth and encourage business startups. Even though its real GDP growth is slowing, the country has become much more efficient at fostering business activity.

Frank Holmes is CEO and Chief Investment Officer for Fund manager U.S. Global Investors –

China’s very strong gold demand start to 2015 – 61 tonnes in week 1

Lawrence Williams

The SGE has reported a very strong, but perhaps not exceptionally so, start to Chinese gold demand in 2014 with 61 tonnes withdrawn from the Exchange in the year’s first trading week. Article submitted to

Gold withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE)  have been picking up even further ahead of the Chinese New Year, but at 61 tonnes in the first full week of 2015 (January 4th to 9th) cannot be described as exceptionally high – not compared with last year for example when withdrawals in the week from January 5th to 10th came to a shade under 80 tonnes.  But, as we’ve pointed out here before, the date of the Lunar New Year falls over 2 weeks later this year than it did last, so the build-up of gold buying ahead of the actual holiday could well prove to be a little lower week-on-week anyway being spread over the additional 19 days compared with a year ago when the Lunar New Year fell at one of its earlier possible dates (January 31st).  Chinese domestic demand may even be a little lower than the SGE figures suggest at about 58 tonnes as an estimated 3 tonnes was moved through the International section of the SGE, the SGEI, which handles gold trade which is not part of the domestic market.  (The SGEI only came into being later last year.)

What effect the recent rise in the gold price will have on Chinese demand over the remaining runup to the actual New Year date remains to be seen.  Shanghai gold premiums were running at a highish level – around $7/ounce – ahead of the recent price rise.  Week-on-week demand may now thus fall back a little if current gold price levels are maintained while the higher prices are digested by the Chinese buying public.  But overall we would expect purchases to remain at an elevated level over the next four weeks ahead of the holiday when it is traditional to give gold, gold jewellery and gold trinkets as gifts.

While China is seen to be in something of an economic downturn, it should be remembered that the nation’s GDP is actually still growing, but at a much slower rate than during its massive growth phases of a few years ago.  The official target is for a little over 7% GDP growth this year and even if this level is not achieved, growth will remain which suggests the accumulated wealth of the Chinese people will be growing too with more people being drawn into the potential gold purchasing arena.

It sometimes seems that the true extent of Chinese gold demand, as represented by withdrawals from the SGE, is just not fully understood by the Western gold markets.  Koos Jansen, who probably follows the Chinese figures closer than anyone, has just published a chart on of Chinese monthly gold demand set against global new mined gold production.  The chart is appended below – I think Mineweb readers will find it interesting as it demonstrates how dominant China is in terms of soaking up much of annual total global new gold supply.  It does not take scrap supply into account, but this has been falling back over the past couple of years due to the lower gold price – and of course China on its own only accounts for around half of total global gold consumption!

Actual gold imports are obviously a separate element from total domestic demand.  Chinese imports are estimated to be around 1,200 to 1,300 tonnes last year, while production from its own mines may come out to be as much as 450 tonnes, with the balance being taken up by domestic recycling of scrap.

 Chart published courtesy of

The other thing the above chart shows is the almost inexorable growth of gold demand within China over the past 5 years and further demonstrates what has to be a huge flow of gold from weaker hands in the West to what are deemed to be far stronger hands in the East.  Jansen in his latest article on bullionstar delves rather further into this gold flow examining statistics on gold exports to China from the world’s major gold trading countries.

If we add some of the other major gold importers into the picture – notably India which on several months last year showed imports actually exceeding those of China – the figures suggest a huge drain of physical gold into Asia.  This thus shows a draining of supplies that are not being replenished by new mined global gold – the balance being provided by scrap and, over the past couple of years, by liquidations from the major gold ETFs held in the West.

In 2013 the supply of gold to the markets from the ETFs was substantial, at as much as 880 tonnes by some estimates, while net sales out of the ETFs last year fell to perhaps less than a quarter of those seen in 2013.  The prospects of further sales out of the ETFs are diminishing unless there is a major gold price crash as more and more the gold ETF holders remaining are seen as being there for the long term with the weaker holders having mostly liquidated their positions.