Gold’s biggest slump in three years means traders and analysts are now the most bullish in three months, speculating that Europe’s debt crisis, slowing growth and a bear market in equities will drive demand for bullion.
Twenty-two of 25 people surveyed by Bloomberg expect the metal to rise next week, the highest proportion since mid-July. Prices rebounded 9.2 percent since reaching a two-month low at the end of September and investors are adding to their holdings in gold-backed exchange-traded products for the first time in a month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Traders also expect gains in copper, sugar, corn and soybeans, surveys show.
Gold slumped as much as 20 percent since reaching a record $1,923.70 an ounce on Sept. 6 as investors sold the metal to cover losses in other markets. As much as $4.2 trillion was erased from the value of global equities in the past month on mounting concern that economies will tip back into recession and European lawmakers will fail to prevent sovereign defaults. The last time traders and analysts were this bullish, bullion surged 21 percent to an all-time high within eight weeks.
“There’s macro-economic, systemic and monetary risk in the world and there’s no sign of that going away any time soon,” said Mark O’Byrne, the Dublin-based executive director of GoldCore Ltd., a brokerage selling everything online from quarter-ounce British Sovereigns to one-kilogram (2.2-pound) bars. “All the factors that drove gold to a record are still there.”
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Gold has risen 18 percent this year to $1,683 by 1:30 p.m. in New York, heading for an 11th consecutive annual advance. It’s the fourth-best performer behind gasoil, Brent crude and heating oil in the Standard & Poor’s GSCI Index of 24 commodities, which rose 1 percent. The MSCI All-Country World Index of equities dropped 9.1 percent and Treasuries returned 7.8 percent, according to a Bank of America Corp. index.
Bullion dropped 11 percent in September, the most since October 2008. That spurred speculators in U.S. futures to cut their net-long position, or bets on higher prices, to the lowest since February by Oct. 4, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. They held a net 127,249 futures and options, 13 percent below the average over the past five years.
Investors reduced their holdings in gold-backed ETPs by almost 17 metric tons last month, a pile now valued at about $900 million, data compiled by Bloomberg show. They added 8.7 tons so far this week, taking combined assets to almost 2,219 tons, more than the holdings of all but our central banks.
Those central banks are also accelerating their purchases. Thailand, Bolivia and Tajikistan bought a combined 18.2 tons in August, International Monetary Fund data show. The slump in prices means more buying for reserves is “very likely,” according to Edel Tully, a London-based analyst at UBS AG. Central banks are adding to their holdings for a third year, the longest expansion in almost four decades.
“There’s strong physical demand globally,” said O’Byrne of GoldCore, which also offers 400-ounce gold bars as part of a service to high-net-worth investors.
The traders and analysts surveyed by Bloomberg are also bullish on copper, which entered a bear market last month after slumping more than 20 percent from a peak in July. Seven of nine people expect prices to rise next week. The metal for delivery in three months, the London Metal Exchange’s benchmark contract, dropped 21 percent to $7,545 a ton this year. Copper reached a 14-month low of $6,635 on Oct. 3 as investors speculated that slowing growth will curb demand for raw materials.
China, the world’s biggest copper consumer, imported the most metal in 16 months in September, customs data show. Diego Hernandez, chief executive officer of Codelco, the largest copper producer, said in an interview in London on Oct. 4 that the Asian nation should take advantage of the slump to restock.
While Barclays Capital cut its forecast for this year’s shortfall in copper supply five times since April, the bank is still predicting a 468,000-ton deficit. That’s enough metal to supply Japan for five months. Stockpiles in warehouses monitored by exchanges in London, Shanghai and New York fell about 8 percent since the end of March, a sign production is still failing to keep up with demand.
“Should debt concerns in the euro zone recede, we are looking to more fundamentally based trading through next year where the likes of copper should benefit,” said Andrey Kryuchenkov, an analyst at VTB Capital in London. “We just need to shake off macro fears and concentrate on market specifics.”
Seven of 12 people surveyed anticipate gains in raw-sugar prices next week and eight said white, or refined, sugar would also advance. Raw sugar traded on ICE Futures U.S. in New York slipped 13 percent this year to 27.93 cents a pound. White sugar traded on NYSE Liffe in London fell 8.5 percent to $711.30 a ton.
Raw sugar climbed 11 percent this week and white sugar 8.8 percent on speculation that flooding in Thailand, the world’s second-largest shipper, may delay harvests at a time when mills in top producer Brazil are ending their season early.
The Thai sugar harvest may be delayed by two weeks, according to Newedge Group SA. Mills in Brazil’s Sao Paulo state, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the nation’s cane production, started shutting for the season in late September, the earliest in 12 years, because of a smaller crop, according to Celso Junqueira Franco, president of the Union of Biofuel Producers.
Fourteen of 28 people surveyed expect corn to rise next week and 19 of 27 anticipate the same thing for soybeans. Prices for both crops plunged by the most in at least three years last month on prospects for improving harvests. Both commodities rose the most in a year or more on Oct. 11 on the Chicago Board of Trade as traders speculated that declines in September would boost purchases by makers of food, animal feed and biofuels.
“Commodity markets are in the process of bottoming out and I think it may take a little time, maybe a few months, to solidify that bottom,” said James Paulsen, the chief investment strategist at Minneapolis-based Wells Capital Management, which oversees about $360 billion of assets. “You will see commodities going up now. The intensity of commodity selling may be ending and we may be heading in another direction.”
Gold survey results: Bullish: 22 Bearish: 1 Hold: 2 Copper survey results: Bullish: 7 Bearish: 1 Hold: 1 Corn survey results: Bullish: 14 Bearish: 9 Hold: 5 Soybean survey results: Bullish: 19 Bearish: 5 Hold: 3 Raw sugar survey results: Bullish: 7 Bearish: 4 Hold: 1 White sugar survey results: Bullish: 8 Bearish: 3 Hold: 1 White sugar premium results: Widen: 6 Narrow: 2 Neutral: 4