August 19, 2011
All major currencies have fallen sharply against gold and silver again today with gold reaching new record nominal highs in Canadian and New Zealand dollars, in sterling, in euros and of course in dollars as turmoil continues in global markets.
In volatile trade, gold is down 1% from new record highs and is trading at USD 1,860.10, EUR 1,300.40, GBP 1,126.40, CHF 1,470.90, and JPY 142,414 per ounce and has risen some 2% in all currencies. Silver has surged by nearly 3% in all major currencies.
The London AM fix was a third consecutive record nominal high in US dollars. Gold’s London AM fix this morning was USD 1,862, EUR 1,299.28, GBP 1,126.91 per ounce (from yesterday’s USD 1,794.50, EUR 1,246.44, GBP 1,087.12 per ounce).
Markets continue to assess the ramifications of Venezuela deciding to repatriate their large gold reserves from London to Caracas. Their reserves are large in gold tonnage terms but small in dollar terms.
Venezuela’s central bank is the world’s 15th largest holder of gold, with 365.8 tonnes, of which some 211 tonnes, worth $12.3bn are held in London with the Bank of England and JP Morgan, Barclays, and Bank Of Nova Scotia.
Many analysts and the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (GATA) have long contended that much of the central bank gold reserves have been leased out by bullion banks and that in the event of central banks choosing to repatriate their bullion, significant supply issues could develop which would lead to a short squeeze and a parabolic increases in prices.
The concern is that other central banks concerned about dollar and currency debasement and expropriation of their gold reserves by embattled large debtor sovereign nations may follow suit.
A short squeeze is quite likely given the scale of global investor and central bank demand.
Already, there is a small degree of backwardation developing in the gold market with certain near term futures contracts now trading at higher prices than longer term contracts. The near term August ’11 contract was trading at $1,871.40/oz while June ’12 contract is trading at $1,870/oz (12:16 GMT). The spread between spot and longer term contracts has fallen suggesting that gold may soon join silver in backwardation.
Silver has been in backwardation for seven months now and backwardation appears to be deepening again. This morning the September ‘11 contract is trading at $41.41 while December ‘12 is trading at $40.65.
The possibility of backwardation in gold suggests that major investors are concerned about the supply of physical gold. Buyers are concerned about securing supply in the future and are willing to pay a premium for spot or immediate delivery.
It could indicate that the short squeeze anticipated by many is taking place and we could see a sharp upward move in gold prices.
This would not be surprising considering the very small size of the physical bullion markets versus the size of the overall financial and currency markets and considering the high demand coming from investors and central banks globally.
It is worth remembering what happened when silver went into backwardation some months ago. It led to a price surge from $30/oz to over $50/oz in 10 weeks.
Backwardation rarely happens in the gold and silver bullion markets. Since gold futures first started to be traded in 1972 (on the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange), there have only been momentary backwardations of a few hours.
It suggests that larger gold bars are difficult to acquire in volume and that the physical market is becoming stressed and less liquid.
Backwardation can end in default, failure to make delivery and in sharply higher prices. A default on the COMEX would have important ramifications for the dollar and could see sharp selling of the dollar and sharp falls on global markets.
Gold backwardation has been warned of by newsletter writer Denis Gartman overnight. He said that if Chavez “does push” for repatriation of $11 billion of gold reserves held in developed nations’ institutions it could lead to backwardation which would wreak ‘havoc’.
Investors should buy “nearer gold” and sell deferred bullion futures, he wrote. October and December futures will trade to premium over February and beyond in this case, Gartman wrote.
Meanwhile, in another sign of gold experiencing a near perfect storm, UBS have said that macro hedge funds were noted buyers and may also have dominated demand during yesterday’s Comex sweeps. They said that the funds may have been waiting for a correction to buy but due to concerns of the market moving away from them decided to buy yesterday.
“If participation from the macro hedge fund community has only just started to accelerate, this adds a new dynamic to the gold market.”
In normal financial and economic times, gold would be considered overvalued but we are far from that today and gold is experiencing a near perfect storm which could propel prices higher.
JP Morgan’s call for $2,500 gold by year end does not sound that outlandish given the fraught financial, economic and monetary conditions today.
A correction remains a real possibility but buying and holding bullion remains the best strategy in today’s volatile markets.
Cost averaging (dollar, euro, pound) is worth considering after the recent price move.
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