LBMA gold pricing anomaly

It may not have gone unnoticed by readers of lawrieongold that just over a week ago there was a major discrepancy between the LBMA Gold Benchmark price published in London and the prevailing spot gold price at the time.  This should not be able to happen.  In a detailed article, Bloomberg’s Shelley Goldberg describes how this came about and what is being done to avoid it happening again:

Gold Trading Systems Experience Growing Pains

On the afternoon of April 11, London’s daily gold price benchmark fix took a peculiar turn: It was about $12 under the spot price. The auction appeared to be stuck on a descending escalator from an initial $1,265.75, before fixing at $1,252.90.

Such a discrepancy affects many participants in the global gold markets — hedgers and speculators, along with miners, refiners and jewelers, as well as banks and portfolio managers. But there was no mention of fat fingers. The initial reports attempting to explain this anomaly pointed to a new algorithm that U.S.-based Intercontinental Exchange, known as ICE, began using to determine prices, as a replacement for the standard auction chair setting the price………….

To read full article click here

Major divergence between SGE and London gold benchmarks

Readers of lawrieongold will be well aware that I have not been posting articles here during my recent nearly 8-week hospitalisation.  I am happy to say that I am now recuperating at home – still very shaky on my feet so not getting out much, but fully intend to get back writing again, so here is an edited version of an article I published on the Sharps Pixley website yesterday.  To read the original article click here

The principal additional comment I’d like to make here is to note the almost 20 hour time difference between the Shanghai and London PM ‘fixes’.  In a rapidly moving gold market this can account for a significant price change and some days will indeed have seen that, but in general terms this won’t have accounted for nearly all the difference.  There has definitely been a sharp anomaly between Shanghai and London prices as can be noted from the Shanghai fixes and the Western spot prices as noted by sites like kitco.com at the same time, and in all cases the Shanghai price has been significantly higher.  Do read the article bearing this in mind.  It follows below:

Few seem to have commented on what appears to be an increasing trend towards large anomalies appearing between the Shanghai and London gold benchmark prices.  Up until the beginning of November prices were pretty much in sync give or take a few dollars – a variation based on trading activity during the day, and, in some cases due to a difference between the gold tenor quality required under the two systems.  The SGE specification is for 99.99% gold content or better, while London works to LBMA Good Delivery specifications where the requirement is only 99.5%.  But on one ounce of gold this should only make for a maximum difference in price of around $5-6 at around a $1200 gold spot price.

But recently – as the table below comparing SGE and LBMA (London) PM price benchmarks for the past month makes very obvious the price difference – virtually always strongly in favour of the SGE benchmark since early in the month.  This has been consistently $10-20 or more (often $20-30) – even rising as high as $46 on November 23rd, although a significant part of this difference on that day was due to the sharp intra-day fall in the London gold price,  (as noted in the introductory paragraph above) as will also have been the case on November 9th when there was a somewhat similar $45 difference.

Note that this morning the Shanghai set benchmark price at $1,197.17 was around $24 higher than the prevailing spot gold price on the international market at the same time!

SGE and London PM Gold ‘Fixes’ (US$

Date SGE PM Gold Price London PM Gold Price Price diffce. SGE PM over London
Nov 1st 1283.95 1288.45 -4.50
Nov 2nd 1296.08 1303.75 -7.67
Nov 3rd 1306.66 1301.00 +5.66
Nov 4th 1300.75 1302.80 – 2.05
Nov 7th 1293.91 1283.05 +10.86
Nov 8th 1290.17 1282.35 +7.82
Nov 9th 1326.88 1281.40 +45.48
Nov 10th 1293.91 1267.50 +26.41
Nov 11th 1267.47 1236.45 +31.02
Nov 14th 1227.97 1213.60 +14.37
Nov 15th 1236.99 1226.95 +10.04
Nov 16th 1241.65 1229.20 +15.45
Nov 17th 1237.30 1226.75 +10.55
Nov 18th 1219.26 1211.00 +8.26
Nov 21st 1224.54 1214.25 +10.29
Nov 22nd 1235.43 1212.25 +23.18
Nov 23rd 1231.70 1185.35 +46.35
Nov 24th 1212.41 1186.10 +26.31
Nov 25th 1200.91 1187.70 +13.21
Nov 28th 1218.64 1187.00 +31.64
Nov 29th 1216.15 1186.55 +29.60
Nov 30th 1210.24 1178.10 +32.14
Dec 1st 1199.35 1161.85 +37.50

Source: www.Kitco.com

As we pointed out here yesterday a part of the reasoning behind the higher SGE benchmark price levels is something of a squeeze on Chinese gold supply which is local market specific – particularly now that gold traders and fabricators may be looking to build stocks ahead of anticipated additional demand from the Chinese New Year holiday, and a reported reduction in gold import quotas by the Chinese Government to curb capital outflows. But part may also be due to Shanghai looking to establish itself as the true gold price setting exchange and thus usurping the still dominant position of COMEX and the LBMA.  As China is the world’s biggest physical gold market, while COMEX and London are largely paper markets, it is probably only a matter of time before this comes to pass but for the moment the Western markets look to still be calling the tune as far as the accepted global gold price is concerned despite some hugely anomalous movements from time to time which many observers put down to manipulation.  The latest such was only yesterday when a rise in U.S. jobless claims, which might normally be considered gold positive, saw the price marked down sharply after an initial small rise.

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……..

Read full article on Mineweb.com  – 

Gold price benchmarking:let battle commence

JP Morgan joins the ‘Usual Suspects’ in LBMA gold benchmarking process

The ICE Benchmark Administration website now shows that JP Morgan Chase has become the seventh Direct Participant in setting the twice daily LBMA Gold Price benchmarks – a selection which will be indeed inflame those gold price manipulation-believers who reckon that JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs are behind almost any irregularity in global financial markets.

Lawrie Williams

If any selection could be seen as inflaming the gold price manipulation-believers, it would be the addition of JP Morgan as one of the new participants in the LBMA Gold Price benchmarking process.  And guess what?  ICE Benchmarking Administration (IBA), which runs the new benchmarking process, confirms that indeed JP Morgan has joined the Direct Participants in the new benchmarking process – not by any announcement, but just by the inclusion today of JP Morgan Chase on its website as being among the members of the panel which now sets the twice daily London benchmark gold price to replace the old Gold Fix.

So the original four members of the old London Gold Fixing panel – Barclays, HSBC, Scotiabank and SocGen – have now been joined by Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and UBS as the Direct Particpants which now set the new gold price benchmarks.

Before the new panel of Direct Particpants was finalised it had been widely believed that one or more of the Chinese banks – Bank of China, ICBC and China Construction Bank – would be among the new members – a speculation which was never squashed by the LBMA – and right up to the first application of the new electronic benchmarking process a week ago many believed that indeed one or more of these three banks would indeed be involved in the process. It was not to be, although all of them would appear to meet the qualification terms for Direct Participants (Ordinary Member accreditation from the LBMA; Individuals with appropriate experience, skill and training; Organisational and governance arrangements; Appropriate credit lines, or equivalent arrangements; Clearing/settlement arrangements with existing Direct Participants) and it had been announced that the three Chinese banks had indeed expressed interest in being among the first Direct Participants.  Why none have become involved so far has not been made apparent.

If the reason for replacing the almost century old gold price benchmarking process had been brought about because it was beginning to be seen as being potentially open to price manipulation by the participants, something which is totally unproven and has always been hotly denied, then the selection of the banks which had formerly been involved as partipants in the new process, plus Goldman, JP Morgan and UBS, seems to have just been a red rag to those gold bulls who believe the gold market is indeed manipulated.  The new LBMA Gold Price participants are viewed by this price manipulation-believing sector as being those who are already probably most involved in finacial manipulation of the system.  They will now reckon that this just confirms their belief.  JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs in particular are very much the betes noires of the manipulation believers.  And they will also see the apparent freezing out of the Chinese banks as just confirming their viewpoint.

Thus one suspects the manipulation-believers will remain up at arms over the new London gold benchmarking system until the number of Direct Participants is broadened to include some members who are seen as being outside the current western financial elite.  And even if this happens, they will still undoubtedly find other points to criticise.

 

LBMA Gold Price direct participants may all be being investigated by U.S. DoJ for gold price rigging

A month-old, and very hard hitting, article by Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge, has new relevance given the make-up of the initial six direct participants in the LBMA Gold Price benchmarking system as all of them have been reported as being under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for possible gold price rigging.

Lawrie Williams

We make no apologies for re-examining a month-old article from Zero Hedge given the recent selection of the six banks now involved in the new London gold benchmarking process.  Never one to mince his words, Tyler Durden of ZeroHedge really climbed into whether the gold market is rigged, and if so (he reckoned it is beyond doubt that it is), who is doing the rigging.  The answer:  virtually everyone with the financial clout to get involved.

In an article on his website published a month ago entitled: Ten Banks, Including JPM, Goldman, Deutsche, Barclays, SocGen And UBS, Probed For Gold Rigging he pointed the finger at almost every major Western banking name out there – and by implication most of the rest of the Western World’s top banks would also be involved too.  Whether the big Chinese banks are also implicated is not stated – but a cynic might conclude that if they are not, then that is perhaps why they have been excluded as Direct Participants in the new London Gold Fixing process – See: Is the new LBMA Gold Price just another Fix? .

Durden commented in his article: “the rigging in the gold market, rigging which involves every single central bank and High Frequency trading outfit is now a proven fact” and pointed to incidences of major banks already having had to pay fines for gold price rigging – but without admitting guilt – and thus tarred virtually all the others, and also the major central banks, with the same brush.  (Perhaps including all central banks was a step too far, but just those which can have a major impact on the gold price would make the point!)

Durden noted that the U.S. Department of Justice probe into gold price rigging was believed to involve investigation into the activities of the following major banks in this respect: Bank of Nova Scotia*, Barclays*, Credit Suisse Group, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs*, HSBC*, J.P. Morgan Chase, Société Générale*, Standard Bank Group and UBS*.  What must be alarming to an outside observer is that all six banks (designated by a * above) selected to handle the new LBMA Gold Price benchmarking process in London are among those reported to be being investigated for gold market rigging

However, like the similar European investigation into precious metals market rigging, Durden obviously does not really expect the U.S. DoJ to find any wrongdoing – or if so only to give the bankers, or some of them, a financial slap on the wrist which in reality will not make the slightest dent in their earnings.  Why?  Because like the similar European ‘probe’, which was dropped, it could likely implicate virtually all the major banks and reveal a manipulation cartel rivalling, or even exceeding, that exposed in the recent Libor probe. “And once traders at the commercial banks turn sides and squeal for the prosecution, well then it would be the central banks’ turn next. Which is why it was imperative to bring the European investigation to a quiet end” Durden commented.  By implication the U.S. probe will end similarly.

Durden obviously writes from a specific ‘gold price is manipulated’ viewpoint which is dismissed by much of the mainstream analytical community, but he would argue that the naysayers are all part of the global financial establishment and would support the status quo anyway.

There certainly is sufficient evidence already out there that at least ‘some’ banking entities, or their employees, have already been found out in attempting to manipulate the gold price for their own ends.  As to whether they have all been ‘at it’, and in concert, is probably going to be impossible to prove – if indeed the regulators will even try that hard to do so!  If Durden is correct, the manipulation runs so deep that for the regulators to do anything more than come up with a judgement so mired in technicalities that it, in effect, finds no blame accruing to the banks is virtually a foregone conclusion.  To do otherwise and find the banks guilty could unleash such a global financial can of worms that it could shake the foundations of the whole capitalist system.

Of course Durden could just be one of those he refers to in his article as who believe that the gold market (not to be confused with Libor or FX) manipulation only exists in the paranoid delusions of a few tinfoil fringe-blogging lunatics.  But like many others of this brigade he does come up with some worrying facts which would tend to support his viewpoint.  The banking establishment would no doubt argue that these are all taken out of context and there is no evidence of any manipulation at all.  And would point to the European probe, and if Durden is correct any forthcoming findings of the U.S. DoJ probe, as proving their point.

But do have a read of Durden’s article as linked in the first paragraph above and make your own assumptions.  It did, at the time, raise some very interesting questions as to the possible conduct of the global financial establishment. Most recently, as noted above,  it would again call into question the selection of the direct participants in the LBMA Gold Price benchmarking process, although one doubts that, even if he is correct in his views and suppositions, much, if anything, will change in the near future!

 

 

Is the new LBMA Gold Price just another Fix? $1171.75 the first new benchmark price

The first LBMA Gold Price benchmark price has come in at $1171.75, but the make-up of the price setting participants continues to raise questions.

The new LBMA Gold Pricing benchmarking process came into effect today and the 10.30 am price set under the new system was $1171.75 – but the make-up of the initial direct participants in the new ‘fix’ is somewhat mired in controversy.

Many had believed the number of direct participants would be expanded into double figures and include at least one Chinese bank – or possibly even three – among its numbers.  In the event it appears that the direct participants in setting the LBMA Gold Price, as it is now called, comprise the four banks which were involved in the old London Gold Fix, plus two more only (Goldman Sachs and UBS) – and no sign of any Chinese involvement.  In a prior article on Mineweb.com – I had commented that it was by no means certain that there would be any Chinese participation at the start – see: Fixing the Gold Fix – with or without the Chinese banks?, which obviously has proved correct.   The fact that, in the event,  by far the world’s biggest gold consumer – whatever the World Gold Council and GFMS may say in their analyses, which uses a very limiting definition of consumption – should not be involved in the new benchmarking process may well indeed be seen as a ‘fix’ in the worst connotations of that word in  modern parlance.

We do assume though that there will be sufficient pressure on the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), which owns the intellectual property to the London benchmarking process, and ICE Benchmarking Administration (IBA), which is handling the mechanics of the process, to involve participation by one or more of the three Chinese banks which have expressed interest in being involved and would appear to meet the strict qualification terms imposed.  These are the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the Bank of China, and China Construction Bank.  The first of these is the world’s largest bank in terms of assets and it seems to an outside observer that it is inconceivable that any true new gold price benchmarking system should not at least include the world’s biggest bank from the world’s largest gold consuming and producing nation.  Outside observers may also well reckon the selection of the new process participants does indeed comprise a ‘Fix’ in order to try and maintain the status quo for as long as possible.

Indeed the LBMA and IBA have been remarkably tight-lipped so far about the selection process for the new LBMA Gold Price participants, or even as to who was going to be the ‘chairman’ of the benchmark setting group (despite this being supposedly a fully electronic process).

So why are no Chinese banks involved?  Undoubtedly the LBMA/ICE will come up with some spurious technical reason which has so far delayed any Chinese inclusion and that they will be working towards some Chinese involvement – but exactly when this might occur will probably be unspecified.  There may undoubtedly be a fear that once the Chinese banks are involved, the Western bullion banks which have set the London gold price benchmarks for nearly 100 years, will eventually lose control of the process and the Chinese will come to dominate it given the seemingly ever-growing demand for gold there and in other Asian nations and the huge physical gold flows from West to East.

 

 

The New London Gold Fixing

Julian D. W. Phillips of www.GoldForecaster.com and www.SilverForecaster.com 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.

The new London Gold ‘Fix’ being implemented with undue haste?

The announcement that the new LBMA Gold Price benchmarking system will commence in March this year may bring this in sooner than might be considered ideal.  Is the LBMA worried about potential competition from Asia in the setting of a new global gold benchmarking system?  Check out full article on http://www.mineweb.com/news/gold/new-london-gold-fix-undue-haste/

Lawrence Williams

Some additional details have now been announced regarding the replacement for the London Gold Fix.  The new electronic system which is to replace the Fix is to be named The LBMA Gold Price (although one suspects that the media may continue to call it the London Gold Fix) and the new system is due to be implemented at a so far unspecified date in March this year.

An announcement from the company selected to handle the new London benchmark pricing process, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), and from the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), which made the decision to appoint ICE to manage the pricing mechanism to replace the nearly century old Gold Fixing process which had come under considerable criticism as being too opaque and potentially subject to manipulation, was released Monday.  Among other things it noted that ICE Benchmark Administration (IBA), as the administrator for what will now be known as the LBMA Gold Price, will transition to a physically settled, electronic and tradeable auction, with the ability to participate in three currencies: USD, EUR and GBP. Within the process, aggregated gold bids and offers will be updated in real-time with the imbalance calculated and the price updated every 30 seconds. IBA will use ICE’s widely distributed front-end, WebICE, as the technology platform which will allow direct participants, as well as sponsored clients, to manage their orders in the auction in real time via their desktops……

To read the full article on Mineweb click on the link in the intro above or here