China and India step up to the gold demand plate

 My latest article on Sharpspixley.com

As always appears to be the case, statistics on gold demand can be contradictory which is perhaps why gold’s fundamentals are so difficult to tie down.  Take the World Gold Council (WGC)’s latest Gold Demand Trends report which suggests global gold demand fell by 18% (228 tonnes) during Q1, compared with the admittedly very high (record) figures achieved in Q1 2016.  But within the report there do appear to have been some major anomalies.

Firstly, the slump in assessed demand was largely for two reasons – sharply reduced gold ETF inflows and a fall in Central Bank gold reserve increases.  But, it should be noted, that gold inflows into the ETFs did remain positive over the quarter and the Central Bank figures were skewed by China’s non reporting of any gold reserve changes since its currency was accepted as part of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) in October last year.  In Q1 2016, China had announced additions of 35.2 tonnes to its official reserves – some 15% of the fall in assessed gold demand during the latest quarter.  If one takes China out of the equation other Central Bank gold additions came to a positive 7.4 tonnes – and on its reserve reporting track record China’s zero reserve addition figure has to be considered suspect.

Coming back to Central Bank shortfalls, can we believe the China figures at all?  One should recall that up until July 2015 China only reported any reserve increases at five of six year intervals maintaining the pretence that it was not adding to its reserves monthly, as it obviously was.  But, in the immediate run up to the IMF decision to re-jig its SDR make-up to include the yuan, the Asian nation began announcing monthly reserve increases.  Once the yuan officially became a part of the SDR, China has reported zero gold reserve increases.  Can this just be coincidence?

China is known to favour building its gold reserve as an important facet of securing its place in the global trade picture and its whole gold reserve adding policy has always been shrouded in secrecy.  Some China-watching  analysts will argue that, in fact, its real gold reserve is far higher than the officially stated figure of 1,842.6 tonnes.  After all it has been the world’s largest gold producer for some years now….

World Gold Council’s Latest Gold Demand Trends Report

The World Gold Council (WGC)’s quarterly Gold Demand Trends report is always well worth analysing as it contains some excellent statistical research on global gold supply and demand supplied by London based precious metals consultancy, Metals Focus.  One may not agree with all their data, but overall it is among the most comprehensive available to the gold market analyst.  Here follows the WGC’s own release on the latest report, published today, and links to enable readers to access the full data set:

Gold demand rises 2% in 2016 as investment surges

Global gold demand rose 2% in 2016 to reach 4,309 tonnes (t), the highest level since 2013, according to the World Gold Council’s latest Gold Demand Trends report. This was largely driven by inflows into gold-backed Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) of 532t, the second-highest year on record, as investors responded to concerns over future monetary policy, geopolitical uncertainty and negative interest rates.

Continued global economic and political uncertainty, most notably Brexit, the US election and currency weakness in China, helped to boost overall investment demand by 70%, to a four-year high of 1,561t.   The price dip in November led to a strong recovery in the bar and coin market in the final quarter of 2016, although this didn’t offset weak demand in the first three quarters; annual demand reached 1,029t, down 2% year-on-year.

Alistair Hewitt, Head of Market Intelligence at the World Gold Council, commented: “2016 saw an unprecedented degree of political upheaval, which underpinned huge institutional investor flows into gold. Retail investors – having been subdued for most of the year – responded quickly to the price fall in Q4, a fact reflected by a surge in demand in the physical market. With an equally uncertain political and economic environment likely in 2017, we expect investment demand to remain buoyant.”

While overall investment demand rose sharply, it was counterbalanced by declines in both jewellery, a 15% fall in 2016 to 2,042t, and central bank purchases. Central banks faced a challenging backdrop, with increased pressure on foreign exchange reserves resulting in demand falling by 33% to 384t for the year. Despite this, 2016 was the seventh consecutive year of net purchases by central banks.

In spite of resilient consumer demand in the fourth quarter of 2016, the two leading gold markets, India and China, both experienced a drop in consumer buying in 2016, falling 21% and 7% respectively. In China, jewellery demand was dampened due to a high gold price throughout much of the year, coupled with constrained levels of supply in Q4, owing to a tightening of currency controls in the country.

Indian demand also faced a raft of challenges throughout the year, including regulatory changes, culminating in the surprise demonetisation policy, which severely hampered demand in both the jewellery and retail investment sectors.

Alistair Hewitt added: “The Indian market faces a challenging time in 2017. We anticipate many of the headwinds that affected demand in 2016 to continue into this year, but we are confident that the Government’s move towards a more transparent gold market will ensure that gold remains an important asset class for millions of people in India.”

Total supply reached 4,571t in 2016, an increase of 5% compared with 2015. Growth in the sector was supported by net producer hedging, which doubled in 2016, as gold producers saw an opportunity to secure cashflow at higher prices. It was also supported by high levels of recycling in Europe and the Middle East, driven by weak currencies and a high gold price. Mine production remained virtually unchanged from 2015 as a result of industry cost-cutting schemes, however, higher gold prices and lower costs have seen a renewed interest in exploration and increased project development is likely in the years ahead.

The key findings included in the Gold Demand Trends Full Year 2016 report are as follows:

Full year 2016 figures:

  • Overall demand for FY 2016 was 4,309t, up 2% compared with 4,216t in 2015
  • Total consumer demand for FY 2016 fell by 11% to 3,071t, from 3,436t in 2015
  • Total investment demand grew by 70% to 1,561t in FY 2016 from 919t in 2015
  • Global jewellery demand was down 15% at 2,042t, compared with 2,389t in 2015
  • Central bank demand was 384t, down 33% compared with 577t in 2015
  • Demand in the technology sector decreased by 3% to 322t from 332t in 2015
  • Total supply grew by 5% to 4,571t this year from 4,363t during 2015. This was largely driven by recycling, which increased 17% to 1,309t from 1,117t in 2015.

 Q4 2016 figures:

  • Overall demand was 994t, a fall of 11% compared with 1,123t in Q4 2015
  • Total consumer demand increased by 5% to 989t from 940t in Q4 2015
  • Total investment demand fell 21% to 174t this quarter compared with 220t last year
  • Global jewellery demand was down 5% at 622t, compared with 653t in Q4 2015
  • Central bank demand reached 114t this quarter, a fall of 32% from 169t in Q4 2015
  • Demand in the technology sector increased by 3% year-on-year, up to 84t compared with 82t during Q4 2015
  • Total supply fell by 4% to 1,036t this quarter from 1,081t during Q4 2015.  
  • Recycling increased by 5% to 250t during the fourth quarter, from 239t during Q4 last year.

The Gold Demand Trends Full Year 2016 report, which includes comprehensive data provided by Metals Focus, can be viewed at http://www.gold.org/supply-and-demand/gold-demand-trends and on our iOS and Android apps. Gold Demand Trends data can also be explored using our interactive charting tool http://www.gold.org/supply-and-demand/interactive-gold-market-charting.

WGC Report Shows H1 Gold Demand Highest On Record

The latest Gold Demand Trends report from the World Gold Council (WGC) is now out with data supplied by London-based precious metals research consultancy, Metals Focus.  It shows the highest level of H1 gold demand on record, largely on the back of investment demand – particularly in gold ETFs which absorbed 580 tonnes in the first half of the year.  Overall this countered a fall in net central bank gold sales, and falling consumer demand in the world’s two biggest countries for this in India and China.

While demand was high – so was supply with a resurgence in scrap supply brought on by the 25% rise in the US dollar gold price over the half year – which was enhanced in some countries by falling domestic currency parities against the dollar.

The World Gold Council’s summary press release detailing some of the highlights of the latest report is reproduced below, complete with a link to download the full report.

Near record high in H1 demand driven by western investors

Global gold demand reached 2,335 tonnes (t) in the first half of 2016 with investment reaching record H1 levels, 16% higher than the previous record in H1 2009, according to the World Gold Council’s latest Gold Demand Trends report.

Q2 2016 continued in the same vein as the first quarter this year with overall gold demand growing to 1,050t, up 15% from the Q2 2015 figure of 910t, boosted by considerable and consistent investment demand. Investment demand reached 448t as investors sought risk diversification and a safe store of value in the face of continued political, economic and social instability. Exchange traded funds (ETFs) had a stellar first half of the year at almost 580t due to the additional inflows in Q2 of 237t. Bar and coin demand was also up in a number of markets in Q2, including the US at 25t (up 101%), leading to H1 bar and coin investment of 485t, 4% higher than the first half last year.

A cause and effect of the growth in investment demand was a 25% rise in the US$ gold price, the strongest H1 price gain since 1980. This contributed to lacklustre consumer purchasing, particularly in price sensitive markets. While there were increases for jewellery demand in the US (up 1%) and Iran (up 10%), the customary powerhouses of China and India saw drops in Q2 of 15% to 144t and 20% to 98t respectively. India was further impacted by rural incomes remaining under pressure, as well as the government’s decision to increase excise duty. Meanwhile, China faced a challenging quarter against a relatively soft economic backdrop and the implementation of new hallmarking legislation in May.

Central bank demand decreased 40% in Q2 2016 (77t), compared to 127t in the same period last year, resulting in net purchases for H1 now totalling 185t. While this quarter was the lowest level of net purchases since Q2 2011, it comes amid a significant rise in gold prices over H1, dramatically increasing the value of central bank gold holdings to US$1.4trn. Central banks are still expected to be key contributors to global demand, as gold provides diversification from currency reserves and, most notably, the dollar.

Alistair Hewitt, Head of Market Intelligence at the World Gold Council, commented:

“The strength of this quarter’s demand means that the first half of 2016 has been the second highest for gold on record, weighing in at 2,335t. The global picture for gold is dominated by considerable and continued investment demand driven by the West as investors rebalance their investments in response to the ever-expanding pool of negative yielding government bonds and heightened political and economic uncertainty.

The foundations for this demand are strong and diverse, drawing on a broad spectrum of investors accessing gold via a range of products, with gold-backed ETFs and bars and coins performing particularly strongly. But the global gold market is, and has always been, based on balance: so whilst investment is currently the largest component of demand, we see a gradual return for the jewellery market in the second half of 2016.”

Total supply for Q2 2016 saw an increase of 10% to 1,145t compared to 1,042t in the second quarter of 2015. The primary driver of this increase was recycling, which saw a significant rise  of 23%, as consumers capitalised on the rising gold price, leading to first half recycled gold supply of 687t, 10% higher than the 626t seen in H1 2015. Mine production remained broadly flat at 787t (790t in Q2 2015), while gold producers added 30t to the hedgebook.

The key findings included in the Gold Demand Trends Q2 2016 report are as follows:

  • Overall demand for Q2 2016 increased by 15% to 1,050t, up from 910t in Q2 2015.
  • Total consumer demand was 656t down 9% compared to 723t in Q2 2015.
  • Global investment demand was 448t, up 141% from 186t in the same period last year.
  • Global jewellery demand fell 14% to 444t versus 514t in the second quarter of 2015.
  • Central bank demand fell 40% to 77t in Q2 2016, compared to 127t in the same period last year.
  • Demand in the technology sector fell 3% to 81t in Q2 2016.
  • Total supply was up 10% to 1,145t in Q2 2016, from 1,042t in Q2 2015. Mine production in Q2 2016 was virtually flat year-on-year at 787t.

The Q2 2016 Gold Demand Trends report, which includes comprehensive data provided by Metals Focus, can be viewed at http://www.gold.org/supply-and-demand/gold-demand-trends and on our iOS and Android apps. Gold Demand Trends data can also be explored using our interactive charting tool http://www.gold.org/supply-and-demand/interactive-gold-market-charting.

Record Q1 gold demand tempered by roll-over threat. The Holmes Gold SWOT

Frank Holmes, CEO and Chief Investment Officer of U.S. Global Investors  gives us his weekly analysis of last week’s reported Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for gold and gold stock investment

Strengths

  • The best performing precious metal this week was silver, down 1.82 percent.
  • According to data from the Commerce Department on Thursday, orders for U.S. capital goods declined unexpectedly in April for a third straight month, reports Bloomberg. With American manufacturers continuing to pull back, this could indicate a lesser chance for the Federal Reserve to raise rates in June.
  • This week the World Gold Council reported that in the first quarter of 2016 global demand for gold was 1,290 tons – the highest ever for a first quarter – as investors seek safe haven investments in a time of economic fragility and uncertainty caused by negative interest rates, reports China Daily. The article continues by pointing out that buying U.S. Treasuries or other sovereign debt from Western countries has also become a “less attractive option for central banks because of their low yields.”
  • The global manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) is on track to decline in May, reports Cornerstone Macro. The research group believes this is a likely outcome given declines in the May Japanese and eurozone manufacturing PMIs, as well as a probable decline in the U.S. manufacturing PMI. Cornerstone points out a handful of important global tailwinds in its report including low interest rates and healthy U.S. growth, but says there are even more headwinds that include a China slowdown, excess emerging market debt and a Brexit risk, to name a few

Weaknesses

  • The worst performing precious metal for the week was platinum, down 4.40 percent.
  • Gold traders are bearish for a second week – the first successive week since mid-April – as bets increase on an interest rate move from the Fed, reports Bloomberg. The Fed Funds futures show the odds of a rate increase by July seen at 52 percent, up from 48 percent at the end of last week.
  • Following a pause in the dollar’s rally this week, Bloomberg reports that gold snapped six days of losses, rebounding from the lowest level in seven weeks. The article continues, stating that gold is still headed for the biggest monthly drop since November on speculation the U.S. Federal Reserve will increase U.S. borrowing costs as early as next month, denting demand for bullion.
  • As Venezuela’s economic crisis deepens and the government faces concerns that it could struggle to honor bond payments, the country held the biggest gold sale by a central bank in eight years, reports Bloomberg. According to data from the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela cut its gold reserves by 16 percent in the first quarter, following a 24 percent reduction in 2015.

Opportunities

  • The Fed may be bluffing on a rate hike, according to Mark Matthews, Head of Investment Research at Julius Baer Group. In an interview with the Economic Times, Matthews discusses the Fed’s history of contradicting itself, most recently on its stance back in February and March. “I think they did not like the fact that the market was not pricing in any rate hikes this year,” Matthews said. “They wanted to have some implicit threat of a rate hike in the market and they have largely achieved that now.”
  • Analysts at RBC Economics have come out stating that despite the “surprisingly hawkish” minutes from the Fed, raising rates in June is “nearly impossible.” In a report released Tuesday by RBC, the group stated “We think a lot of things have to align in order for the Fed to justify a lift at the July confab. September is still complicated by Money Market reform, and November falls right on top of the U.S. presidential election.”
  • Deutsche Bank, in a recent note, says that by preparing markets for future interest rate hikes, the Federal Reserve potentially hampers its ability to actually carry out those hikes in the future, reports Business Insider. The article continues by stating, that said in another way, “The Fed appears stuck in a negative feedback loop wherein suggestions that higher rates are coming create the unsettled conditions that ultimately force the Fed to keep rates right where they are.

Threats

  • UBS believes that gold is set to “roll over,” reports Bloomberg, forecasting bullion to drop back to $1,150 an ounce. The yellow metal could tumble as the U.S. dollar “erodes demand with the Federal Reserve opting for not one, but two rate increases before the year-end,” according to UBS Group AG’s wealth-management unit. Not everyone sees a retreat in gold however. Citigroup raised its year-end target by $100 to $1,250 an ounce, reports Bloomberg.

GLD-Will-Gold-Roll-Over-On-Dollar-Strength-05272016-LG

  • In an interview with CNBC this week, Dennis Gartman cautioned investors on when he believes they should come off the sidelines for gold. He says the time to be bullish on gold is not until after the first interest rate hike of the year. Assuming that a rate increase will happen in 2016, he thinks investors should avoid the precious metal in the near term, as he expects an active market to remain after the central bank acts, reports CNBC.
  • Retailers in Hong Kong are forecast to see the worst downturn in gold sales in at least 15 years, reports Bloomberg. Fewer mainland shoppers are spending less money on jewelry, the article continues, and China’s economic slowdown and anti-corruption campaigns have hurt luxury retailers in Hong Kong with visits by Chinese tourists.

Gold Demand Just Had Its Strongest-Ever First Quarter

By Frank Holmes
CEO and Chief Investment Officer
U.S. Global Investors

It makes a great deal of sense to own gold. Billionaire hedge fund manager, Paul Singer

This year’s first quarter is one for the history books. Not only did gold appreciate at its fastest pace in 30 years, but demand for the yellow metal was the strongest it’s ever been on record.

Let me repeat that: the strongest it has ever been.

Demand surged 21 percent from the same period a year ago, according to the latest World Gold Council (WGC) report. Most of this demand was driven by investment, with net inflows into gold ETFs reaching 363.7 tonnes, a seven-year high.


click to enlarge

Meanwhile, demand for bars and coins shot up 55 percent year-over-year, from 11.8 tonnes to 18.3 tonnes. Appetite for American Eagle coins jumped 68 percent.

Bad News Is Good News for Investors Who Have Diversified with Gold

Uncertainty over the world economy, not to mention central bank policy, continues to act as a major catalyst for demand, heating up the Fear Trade. With many countries currently locked in a global race to see who can devalue their currencies the fastest, investors are seeking better, more reliable stores of value, and gold is happy to oblige.

former libertarian vice presedential nominee wayne allyn root whose latest book is the power of relenetless

This was the message shared by Wayne Allyn Root, the “Capitalist Evangelist,” whose presentation I had the pleasure to see at the MoneyShow last week in Las Vegas. The week before last I said I would be speaking at the event, which was founded in 1981 by my dear friend Kim Githler, and I had no idea how popular Root really was. A businessman, politician and author, Root was the vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian party in 2008 and this year endorsed Donald Trump for president. At the MoneyShow, he packed the room with 1,400 people. Whole crowds turned out to hear him sermonize on entrepreneurship, individual rights and the importance of owning tangible assets such as precious metals and rare coins as a hedge against inflation and today’s uncertain financial markets. Owning gold, he said, is no longer a luxury but a necessity.

One of Root’s most interesting data points is just how much purchasing power the dollar has lost since 1913, the year the Federal Reserve was created: A million dollars then is worth about $25,000 today. Gold, on the other hand, has not only held its value but appreciated. One million dollars in gold in 1913 would now be worth more than $60 million.

Get educated on diversifying into gold!

Other huge names that presented at the MoneyShow included Gary Shilling, Art Laffer and Craig Johnson, a Piper Jaffray CFA and President of the Market Technicians Association. I had an enjoyable dinner with Craig, who called the current rally a “FOMO” rally. (I only recently learned, from my niece, that FOMO stands for “fear of missing out” and is widely used on social media.)

Another illuminating presentation I’d like to mention was conducted by IBD’s Amy Smith, who convincingly spoke on how the 2016 elections might change the stock market. The most actionable takeaway was that most blue chip stocks have typically done well no matter who occupies the White House, confirming my own attitude that, at the end of the day, it’s the policies that matter, not the party. The most compelling example she used was Netflix, whose stock has been a steady climber throughout both Bush 43 and Obama’s presidencies.

A reasonable, well-positioned portfolio, then, consists of strong, entrepreneurial names; gold (I always recommend a 10 percent weighting: 5 percent in gold stocks, 5 percent in physical bullion); and short-term, tax-free municipal bonds, which have historically done well even in times of economic turmoil, such as the tech bubble and the financial crisis.

Follow the Smart Money

The smart money is indeed flowing into gold right now. Earlier this month I shared with you the fact that hedge fund manager Stanley Drukenmiller, notable for having one of the best money management track records in history, cited gold as being his family office fund’s number one allocation. Druckenmiller is joined by billionaire Paul Singer, whose hedge fund oversees $28 billion. In his letter to clients last month, Singer wrote: “It makes a great deal of sense to own gold… Investors have increasingly started processing the fact that the world’s central bankers are completely focused on debasing their currencies.”

About a third of global debt right now comes with a negative yield.

Elsewhere in the letter, Singer suggested that gold’s phenomenal first quarter, in which the metal rose 16.5 percent, is “just the beginning.” Further loss of confidence in central bankers’ ability to jumpstart growth could take the metal even higher.

This is the assessment of Paradigm Capital, who wrote in a recent report that “a standard gold price rally, a percentage exceeded or achieved in four of five major upcycles since 1976, would take us to around $1,800 ounces over the next three to four years.”

Register Today for Our Next Gold Webcast!

I invite all of you to register today for our next webcast, titled “All Eyes on Gold: What’s Attracting Investors to the Yellow Metal.” I’ll be discussing the chief factors driving gold demand right now, how historical and seasonal patterns affect gold and why the metal can be an integral part of your portfolio. The webcast will be held on June 8, starting at 4:15 PM Eastern time (3:15 PM Central time).

This is an exciting time for gold. I hope you’ll join me!

CGA figures equate Chinese domestic gold demand to SGE withdrawals

My latest article on sharpspixley.com.

It seems to take an awful long time for the publication to appear, but now the Chinese Gold Association (CGA) has published, in Chinese, its 2014 Gold Yearbook and its figures for China’s gold demand that year, and for China’s gold imports, differ strongly from those put out by major precious metals consultancies such as GFMS (which also provided data to the World Gold Council that year), Metals Focus (which is current data provider for the WGC), and CPM Group – the most prominent U.S. based precious metals consultancy.  The report on the latest CGA figures to be published came from who else but precious metals chart guru, Nick Laird of www.Sharelynx.com, who monitors China figures extremely closely, and who also published an image from the yearbook showing the actual table from the report

For 2014 for example, the WGC (whose figures seem to be taken as gospel by the world’s major media outlets) reported mainland Chinese gold consumption that year at 813.6 tonnes.  The CGA yearbook stated the total Chinese gold demand figure at 2,106 tonnes – which is actually extremely close to the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) withdrawals figure for the same year at 2,102 tonnes.  (For 2013 CGA total demand figures were also almost identical to SGE withdrawal figures for that year.)   Now while the categorisation of what should actually be included in the WGC consumer demand figure may differ somewhat from what is included in the CGA total demand figure, the 2014 difference of 1,292 tonnes between the two sources stretches belief.  Either the WGC (using GFMS figures) got it hugely wrong, or the China Gold Association is including all kinds of things which the WGC isn’t in its calculations…….

To read the full article, which goes into more detail on Chinese gold data, click here

Physical gold demand strong with Central Bank and Asian purchasing

While the US dollar gold price may suggest otherwise it looks as though physical gold demand may be running at record, or near record levels, but still the gold price drifts, although is currently back off its bottom – but for how long?  Click here to read my latest article on Sharpspixley.com   which discusses this apparent anomaly, but one that has been prevalent pretty much since April 2013

The World Gold Council has, for example, just reported the second highest ever quarterly central bank purchases (although to be honest this conclusion could be described as  a little misleading as pointed out in the Sharps Pixley article linked above) and strong retail demand elsewhere.

Meanwhile the Shanghai Gold Exchange has been reporting huge new record physical gold deliveriess (this year’s to date figure has already exceeded the full year SGE deliveries record of 2013 and already is some 366 tonnes higher than at exactly the same time in 2013.

As we note in the article there are differences of opinion on the exact correlation between SGE deliveries and what is classified as Chinese gold demand – largley due to the classification of what actually comprises ‘demand’ or ‘consumption’ but as a like-for-like indicator of what is happening in China in comparison with prior years one cannot ignore the SGE statistics – and the mainstream analysts do not dispute that 2013 was the record year for Chinese gold consumption.

And in terms of global gold consumption it is still China and India which between them hold the key. China is rebooting its economy but as was seen in the absolutely enormous recent  ‘Singles Day’ (dwarfing those of the U.S.’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday put together – see Chinese Singles Day Sales Eclipse Black Friday And Cyber Monday Combined …) the purchasing power in the hands of China’s ever growing consuming classes is already absolutely huge and growing at perhaps 5-6% a year.  There is also a propensity for buying gold so we are entering an era where Chinese gold purchasing alone will probably start to exceed total new supply.  And Indian demand remains huge too – and again with a potential economic growth potential which greatly exceeds anything in the West. If the Modi Government can deliver on its promises, then demand growth here could start matching that of China – although the Indian intelligentsia have their doubts as to whether Modi is anything more than a consummate politician and thus a master of spin to match many of his Western counterparts!  (This is being written from India and the comment comes from conversations with Indians from Modi’s own state of Rajasthan).

However, how long gold prices can continue to move downwards under a massive, and ever-continuing, Sino-Indian growth scenario, remains the $64,000 question!

CORRECTED: Staggering August Chinese gold deliveries out of SGE

Correction to total SGE withdrawals for August – these had previously been overstated

With recorded deliveries of just under 60 tonnes in the final week of August, the Shanghai Gold Exchange statistics would seem to disprove general media reports that Chinese gold demand is falling.  The week 34 figures (up to August 28th) bring SGE withdrawals for the month to a staggering 302 tonnes (with one trading day to go).  This is already a new monthly record and what is even more significant is that August is usually one of the weaker months of the year for SGE deliveries.  To put this figure into context, the world’s second largest gold producer, Australia, mined 272 tonnes of gold last year, so the SGE delivered nearly 50 tonnes more than this out of the exchange in a single month.  And don’t forget the SGE only deals in physical gold – there’s no paper gold element involved.

Year to date SGE figures show that physical gold withdrawals out of the Exchange are already running hugely ahead of those at the same time of year even in the record 2013 year for Chinese gold demand.  Indeed withdrawals are running fully 219 tonnes higher than by the end of August 2013.  With Chinese demand usually stronger in the tail end of the calendar year, particularly in November and December as the Chinese New Year – a time when domestic gold consumption normally is at its highest – approaches, it does currently look as if we will see a huge new record in the SGE figures this year.  This just doesn’t gel with the general position on Chinese demand as expressed by the media.

Global gold demand down 12% Q2 2015

The latest run of statistics from the World Gold Council has been released in the form of its Q2 Gold Demand Trends analysis with data nowadays being provided by London-based precious metals consultancy – Metals Focus.  While it finds that global demand is down 12% year on year it notes that there is a good likelihood that demand will pick up well in the second half – indeed the latest gold price moves and figures for Indian imports and SGE withdrawals suggest that this may already be happening.  On the Fundamentals front it also noted that supply was down 5% with an increase in mine supply being more than countered by a fall in gold scrap supplies. Central bank purchases were down year on year but still remained strong with the Q2 figure up on that for Q1.

The World Gold Council’s own release on the latest figures, with links to the full report, follows:

The World Gold Council’s Gold Demand Trends report for Q2 2015 shows total demand was 915 tonnes (t), a fall of 12% compared to the same period last year, due mainly to a decline in demand from consumers in India and China. However, demand in Europe and the US grew, driven by a mixture of increasingly confident jewellery buyers and strong demand for bars and coins. Looking ahead, there are encouraging signs moving into what are traditionally the busiest quarters for gold buying in India and China.

Overall jewellery demand was down 14% to 513t, from 595t in 2014 due to falls in consumer spending in Asia. In China, slowing economic growth and a rallying stock market led to a 5% fall in demand to 174t. In India, the heavy unseasonal rains in Q1 and drought in Q2 impacted rural incomes and affected gold demand. In addition, a dearth of auspicious days for marriages in Q3 meant that wedding-related demand was unusually slow, leading to a fall in jewellery demand of 23% to 118t. Overall, if we look at the picture for the first half of this year in India, jewellery was down 3% to 268.8t from 276.1t (H1 2014). The US remained steady, with jewellery demand up for the sixth consecutive quarter by 2% (26t). In Europe demand was also up, with Germany up 7% and the UK and Spain both growing by 6%.

Global investment demand was down 11% to 179t from 200t in Q2 2014. India was the main driver of the fall, down 30% to 37t, due to uncertain price expectations and a buoyant stock market. This was countered by a rise in Chinese bar and coin demand, up 6% to 42t. In Europe, fears of a potential Greek exit from the eurozone saw retail investment in gold reach 47t, a rise of 19% compared to last year. The US also saw strong demand, with retail investment increasing by 7%. Of particular note was the huge burst of activity in June, when bullion coin sales by the US Mint hit a 17-month high.

Elsewhere, central banks continued to be strong buyers of gold. Net official sector purchases totalled 137t, with Russia and Kazakhstan the biggest purchasers. Although a year-on-year fall of 13%, buying increased by 11% when compared with the first quarter of this year. It is the 18th consecutive quarter where central banks were net purchasers of gold.

Total supply was down 5% to 1,033t, as an increase in mine production of 3% to 787t in Q2 2015 was offset by declining recycling levels – down 8% to 251t. The indication for H2 2015 is that mine production will slow as the gold mining industry continues to manage their costs and optimise operations in the face of challenging markets.

Alistair Hewitt, Head of Market Intelligence at the World Gold Council, said:

“It’s been a challenging market for gold this quarter, particularly in Asia, on the back of falls in India and China. The reverse is true for western jewellery markets, as increased economic confidence led to continued growth in consumer demand. It is  fair to say that investment demand for the quarter remained muted given the continuing recovery in the US economy and booming stock markets in India and China during the quarter. 

Jewellery market prospects look healthier for the remainder of the year with the upcoming wedding and festival season in India. In addition, falls in the gold price have historically triggered buying in price sensitive markets and we are already seeing early indications of this across Asia and the Middle East. Conversely, sharp falls in Chinese stock markets have shaken the largely consumer investment base and we are seeing early indications of interest in buying gold again – all illustrating the unique self balancing nature of gold demand and the diverse drivers which underpin it.” 

Gold demand and supply statistics for Q2 2015

  • Overall demand was down 12% in Q2 2015 to 915t compared to 1,038t in Q2 2014.
  • Total consumer demand – made up of jewellery demand and coin and bar demand – totalled 715t, down 14% compared to Q2 2014.
  • Global jewellery demand was 513t, down 14% compared to the same period last year, due to falls in China, down 5% to 174t, as well as India, down 23% to 118t.  The US and Europe saw continued growth with the US up 2% to 26t, and Europe up 1% to 15t.
  • Total investment demand was down 11% to 179t, compared to 200t in the same quarter the previous year. Demand for bars and coins saw a 15% drop to 201t from 238t  the previous year, as the sector was affected by an expected increase in US interest rates and a continued shift towards other asset classes, notably equities. ETFs saw outflows totalling 23t, lower than the outflows of 38t seen in the same quarter last year.
  • Central banks continued to be strong buyers of gold, accounting for 137t in Q2 2015, slightly down on the equivalent quarter last year, but up 11% compared to the previous quarter. It was the 18th consecutive quarter where central banks were net purchasers.
  • Year-on-year quarterly mine production increased 3% to 787t in Q2 2015, against 763t in Q2 2014. Recycling levels were down 8% year-on-year to 251t compared to 273t in Q2 2014, resulting in total supply falling 5% to 1,033t.

The Q2 2015 Gold Demand Trends report, which includes comprehensive data provided by Metals Focus, can be viewed athttp://www.gold.org/supply-and-demand/gold-demand-trendsand on our iOS and Android apps..

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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.