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Gold Retail Buyers Face Physical Supply Shortages

Commodities / Gold & Silver Dec 09, 2008 - 08:01 AM GMT

By: Adrian_Ash

Commodities

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleRetail Gold Buyers Still Face Shortages, High Mark-Ups as Global Credit & Lending Collapse; Central Banks Prepare "Money Flood"

THE PRICE OF GOLD in the world's professional wholesale market held inside a tight $10 range early Tuesday in London, drifting up from $768 an ounce as global equities rose for the third session running.


"As the wind-down to the holiday season nears and investors draw a line under 2008, gold is trending towards a range bound closure," says today's Gold market note from Mitsui, the precious metals dealer in London.

"Following the substantial moves this year, this conclusion is welcomed."

Crude oil ticked back below $44 per barrel and government bond yields remained in sight of all-time record lows as the US Dollar bounced on the forex markets.

The Gold Price in Sterling traded above £520 per ounce on news of a sharp rise in the UK trade deficit.

French investors saw gold touch €600 after France reported a record trade gap of €7.1 billion for Oct. – up by almost one-fifth from Sept. – plus a sharply higher government deficit.

New data showed Japanese output shrinking 0.5% between June and Oct., putting the world's No.2 economy in line for its longest post-war contraction to date.

Taro Aso, the prime minister, is said to be planning a ¥20 trillion ($216bn) stimulus, worth more than 3.5% of Japan's annual economy. Sony Corp. will meantime slash more than 16,000 jobs, Bloomberg reports, in a bid to reduce costs by $1.1 billion.

Today in Beijing a central banker warned that Chinese exports actually fell last month from a year earlier, dragging industrial growth down to 5% from 8.2% in Oct.

"With a dramatic fall in oil prices, Gold also lost a lot of ground," reports Wolfgang Wrzesniok-Rossbach in his latest Precious Metals Weekly for Heraeus, the German refinery group.

"Even then, currently trading at $770 an ounce, the yellow metal is showing far greater resilience than for example any of the [industrial] platinum group metals.

"We do not expect much to change in the coming days."

Today the Bank for International Settlement (BIS) – founded at the depth of the 1930s' global depression – said that global bank lending ground to a halt during the first six months of this year.

Swollen by more than one-third during the preceding year-and-a-half, outstanding cross-border loans in fact shrank by $1.1 trillion in June – down some 3.2% from March.

Trading in all derivative contracts continued to grow, however, reaching $863 trillion by the end of June and up by one-fifth from New Year's Day. But bond-market insurance in the form of credit default swaps (CDS) "registered the first ever decline" the BIS says, shrinking by 1% after clocking up an average six-month growth rate since 2005 of 45%.

"Who will win the race to zero?" now the world faces deflation in asset and credit markets, asks Steven Barrow from Standard Bank here in London today.

"The smart money seems to be on the Fed, but the Swiss National Bank could yet pip the Fed at the post. It meets Thursday and, after taking a scythe to interest rates in the last month, or so, a zero rate seems pretty close."

Today the Swiss Franc slipped 1% vs. the US Dollar, helping the price of Gold for Swiss investors tick higher to CHF 935 an ounce – virtually unchanged from the start of 2008.

Gold pays no interest already, of course, a prime motivation for the central-bank gold sales advised by investment-bank consultants in the 1990s which led to the current limits and caps of the Central Bank Gold Agreement .

"If rates do move to the vicinity of zero later this week," says Barrow, "it may also be the Swiss National Bank that's the first to fully adopt a quantitative easing strategy...flooding the market with cash."

Meantime in the Gold Investment market, "There is a shortage of Krugerrands," reports MiningMX.com in Johannesburg, quoting Alan Demby – executive chairman of the South African Gold Coin Exchange.

"I think we deal with the retail investor, or collector if you will," said Demby on last night's SAfm radio show. "Clients buy between, say, one and 2,000 coins.

"Our clients tend to be on average long-term hoarders, if you will, for want of a better word, and at some stage they might wish to sell or hand it over to their children or grandchildren.

"There are over 55 million Krugerrands " in circulation, Demby notes, yet despite this huge volume of outstanding supply, the price asked of would-be buyers has risen way ahead of their actual gold content in 2008, more than doubling since July alone, according to the Coin Dealer Newsletter .

Charted by Gene Arensberg at Resource Investor , the premium-to-spot prices charged by US coin dealers now stands at $45 per ounce on average – a huge 6% mark-up to the actual value of each coin's gold content, and a premium that's risen more than three times over since the start of 2006.

For investors wanting to buy small Gold Bars , "Differing situations exist in delivery periods," says Wrzesniok-Rossbach at Heraeus, the German refinery. "Minted investment bars with weights from 1 gram to 100 grams still have significant delays, whereas casted bars of 250 grams up to a kilogram can be delivered more or less promptly.

"An easing in the small bars situation is not to be expected before Christmas."

Over in the wholesale gold market, however – where professional dealers trade up to $60 billion worth of 400-ounce, wholesale gold bars each day through the London market – supply has remained deep and liquid all year.

These bars are the Spot Gold market – the benchmark price of solid gold over which coin collectors and small-bar buyers having to "pay retail" are then charged those premiums.

By Adrian Ash
BullionVault.com

Gold price chart, no delay | Free Report: 5 Myths of the Gold Market
City correspondent for The Daily Reckoning in London and a regular contributor to MoneyWeek magazine, Adrian Ash is the editor of Gold News and head of research at www.BullionVault.com , giving you direct access to investment gold, vaulted in Zurich , on $3 spreads and 0.8% dealing fees.

(c) BullionVault 2008

Please Note: This article is to inform your thinking, not lead it. Only you can decide the best place for your money, and any decision you make will put your money at risk. Information or data included here may have already been overtaken by events – and must be verified elsewhere – should you choose to act on it.

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