UPDATE: Gold fever – It still ain’t what it used to be….

Gold: Is it a Consolidation phase ($900-$950 level) or things are really going wrong?

What is going on behind the scene?

Gold still remains the best bet in precious metals. Gold has given an annualized return of 46.28% YTD and around 40% annualized since we wrote our first thesis and recommendation on gold (see article date January 21, 2008). Gold roared to a lifetime high of $1,030.80/ troy oz. on March 17, 2008 but then tumbled to a two-month low of $872.90 in early April in a broad commodities sell-off. It has bounced since then and stood around $935 an ounce on April 15, 2008. There has been increasing media reports and speculation about future of gold. In our opinion, the concerns like, “is the bull run over”, “has gold seen its golden season”, are baseless and we have reasons for our strong view. Many on the street are also arguing that the shining in gold was due to the increased money flow in the commodities complex (Commodity ETF’s/funds), however we think this remains one of the factor but certainly not the underlying one, gold has its own reasons supporting the price movements.

The answer to the first question in the headline is affirmative and second question is negative.

Recent concerns/factors working for gold:

1. Strong fundamentals: Increasing supply concerns from South Africa:

Gold still enjoys the case of strong fundamentals where demand is still more than supply (see our previous analysis “Gold: its ain’t the fever what it used to be Jan 2008”)

South Africa (SA) is one of the top producers of gold. In terms of 2007 mine production it accounted for around 11.1%, Just behind China which enjoyed 11.3% (see production chart). Lately SA is having growing imbalance between the power consumption and generation. As a measure of regulation and in order to control things, SA govt. is controlling all the power allocation to all the business’s which primarily includes gold mining. As per last update, SA govt. is now allocating around 90% of the power which the mines used to consume earlier. This is regardless of which mine is producing how much in terms of efficiency and cost, hence even if the producer may want to allocate 100% or more of the power to some low cost and more efficient mines and keep certain high cost mines closed , it has no option but to suffer on rising costs for non-efficient mines.

As per experts and power industry consultants the power problem is a structural problem on account of lack of build up of new generation facilities coupled with increased usage and bad weather, hence the situation might take around 2-3 years to get fully normalized. Major gold producers like Gold Fields, Anglo American (400,000 ounces shortfall) have already announced reduced production guidance on account of power shortages.

Source: http://www.goldsheetlinks.com/production.htm
Source/further readings supporting the thesis: 2007 world gold production fell marginally and 2008 output to stabilize – GFMShttp://www.mineweb.com/mineweb/view/mineweb/en/page33?oid=50465&sn=Detail

2. Renewed demand from Asia particularly India: Seasonality

Though there is no denial of the fact that demand was subdued in India and China due to high gold prices, the fact remain that gold is the party essence for every celebration in India. This time the pullback is attributed to or rather spurred because of the wedding season (ending May 2008) and The Akshaya Tritiya festival (May 7, 2008). Jewellery demand may see a major spur due to these two reasons. We have studied the data from 1970 for gold demand and came to the conclusion that gold does have seasonality factor. The first and fourth quarters are the periods when there was rise in gold price on account of higher demand, while the second and the third quarters were seen as quiet or flat demand during the particular year. Having said that, the analysis is based on normalized data and we have removed specific outliers to improve data quality.

Source/further readings supporting the thesis:
Indian demand keeping gold markets alive
Return to gold by Eastern jewellery markets means price may have bottomed
Citigroup warns of waning gold investment, seasonal slack – but positive long term

3. IMF sales – a perspective. The gold for sale is different from the rest!

The recent announcement from the US Treasury on 25th February, approving in principle the proposal for the IMF to sell some of its gold reserves, marked a reversal of policy and generated a knee-jerk reaction in the gold market, with prices dropping by $10 to close at $938 that day.
It looks as though any sales by the IMF will be restricted to 400 tonnes used in a previous sale and repurchase agreement – and in any case would be made within the existing CBGA sales Agreement. The market is right to remain unfazed!

This looks very much like the gold that was used in sale-and-repurchase transactions with the IMF in 1999 and 2000. In these transactions the IMF sold gold to Brazil and Mexico at prevailing market prices and then immediately accepted it back at the same price in settlement of financial obligations of those countries to the IMF. While the net effect on gold holdings was zero, the gold thus accepted was entered onto the IMF’s books at the prevailing market price rather than the official price of SDR35/ounce. In accordance with the IMF Articles the equivalent of SDR35/ounce from the proceeds of the sales was retained in the General Resources Account. The increase in the value of the gold held on the balance sheet was deemed to offset the liabilities of Mexico and Brazil to the IMF.

There are three things which needed to be noted in this regard as observed by Crockett Committee:

Firstly the undertaking-sale of gold-should be qualified in important ways that limit its impact on the gold market. In the first instance, the amount should be limited to the 400 tons I mentioned, without envisaging any additional sales.

“Secondly, the sale should take place within the existing Central Bank Gold Agreement, that is to say it would not be additional to sales already programmed by central banks, but would be accommodated by reductions in the amounts of gold that the central banks might sell under the Central Bank Gold Agreement.

“And thirdly, we have emphasized that the sale should be undertaken in a very careful way in terms of their periodicity amounts and manner of sale such as not to disturb the market.

Source/further readings supporting the thesis:
IMF sales – a perspective. The gold for sale is different from the rest!
Swiss Central Bank gold sales – further analysis

One Response

  1. good thesis, but i would like more charts and more data points

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