“Speculation” in Absence of Physical Demand Blamed for Gold’s 5% Plunge as Greek “Credit Event” Denied

Adrian Ash:  PRECIOUS METALS rallied in Asian and early London trade Thursday morning, with gold futures at one point recovering more than a third of yesterday’s sharp $100-per-ounce decline as global stock markets also rose.

Broad commodity markets rose, but the single Euro currency slipped to fresh 1-week lows as European banks received the €529 billion in 3-year loans they requested from the European Central Bank’s LTRO program yesterday.

“[A] credit event has not occurred with respect to [last week’s] Hellenic Republic restructuring” announced adjudicators at the International Swaps & Derivatives Association (ISDA) this morning, despite private-sector holders of Greek government debt losing some 70% of their investment.

Wednesday’s sharp plunge in physical bullion and gold futures prices “makes it quite clear that the previous rise…had been driven mainly by speculation,” reckons today’s note from Commerzbank’s commodities team.

Silver bullion briefly rose back above $35 per ounce today – a three-decade record when breached in March last year, but still 6% below Wednesday’s early jump to 5-month highs.

Traders and analysts variously point today to Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s semi-annual testimony on Capitol Hill, profit-taking or month-end book squaring by investors, a large sell order in Comex gold futures – put at 31 tonnes or perhaps 93 tonnes – or alternatively a “fat finger” typo by a US trader, a rumor swiftly denied by the CME exchange on Wednesday.

All told, the number of outstanding contracts in Comex gold futures declined by the equivalent of 35 tonnes yesterday.

New York’s $70bn GLD gold trust meanwhile added new metal, extending February’s 13-tonne increase by a further nine to record its biggest 1-month addition since November and growing above 1293 in total, a level first seen just before their historic peak of June 2010.

“We think a large part of why gold conceded so much came down to three other factors,” says UBS strategist Edel Tully.

“$1800 was proving to be too much of a hurdle and a certain staleness had entered the market; [gold futures] positioning had increased very swiftly in recent weeks; and physical demand has been non-existent of late.”

In the United States, gold bullion coin sales to authorized dealers slowed sharply in February said the US Mint Wednesday, dropping 83% from January and falling by nearly three-quarters from Feb. 2011.

Totalling 21,000 ounces, last month’s sales of Gold Eagle coins were the lowest sine June 2008.

Gold imports to Turkey – the world’s biggest producer of gold coins – meantime ticked down to 2 tonnes from 3 tonnes in Jan., the Istanbul Gold Exchange said today.

In Asia this morning, “It’s been a long time since we saw such decent buying,” one Hong Kong-based dealer told Reuters, with “decent buying” reported by other traders on the dip below $1700 per ounce.

Indian retailers also saw stronger sales today according to newswire stories.

“We’ve seen physical flows coming off steadily since the beginning of February,” agrees Walter de Wet at Standard Bank in London. “The physical demand is just not there…and you really need that on top of the financial demand to push gold much higher.

“We had a sense that the [gold futures] market was increasingly pricing in QE3, and obviously Bernanke has put a dampener on that.”

Calling a recovery in US data “frustratingly slow” at the start of February, US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke yesterday said it was “uneven and modest by historical standards.”

“Bernanke’s comments seem to have eliminated hopes of US quantitative easing coming anytime soon,” believes William O’Neill at Logic Advisors in New Jersey, speaking to Bloomberg last night.

By not promising a fresh dose of Treasury-bond purchases, “It almost seemed as if Bernanke was trying to take the steam out of the commodity market.”

Repeating his promise of near-zero interest rates until 2014, Bernanke was accused by Republican Congressman and presidential hopeful Ron Paul of “stealing wealth” at yesterday’s hearing. Paul added that “nobody believes” official US inflation data.

Related Tickers: SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEArca:GLD), iShares Silver Trust (NYSEArca:SLV), iShares Gold Trust (NYSEArca:IAU).

Written By Adrian Ash From BullionVault

Adrian Ash is head of research at BullionVault – the secure, low-cost gold and silver market for private investors online, where you can buy physical gold today vaulted in Zurich on $3 spreads and 0.8% dealing fees.  Gold price chart, no delay |   Buy gold online at live prices

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