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Gold Traders Extend Bullish Call on European Debt Crisis

Gold Traders Extend Bullish Streak on Debt Crisis
One thousand gram gold bars. Photographer: Kerem Uzel/Bloomberg

Gold traders are bullish for a sixth week on speculation that Europe’s debt crisis will boost demand from investors seeking to protect their wealth and drive prices higher after moving to within 1 percentage of a bear market.

Sixteen analysts surveyed by Bloomberg said they expect a rally next week and 10 were bearish. Another five were neutral. Investors added almost $2 billion to holdings in gold-backed exchange-traded products this month, the most since November, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Hedge funds and other speculators have increased bets on a rally for four consecutive weeks, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show.

Spain formally asked for a bailout for its banks on June 25 and Cyprus that day became the fifth member of the 17-nation euro zone to ask for outside help. European leaders agreed today to ease repayment rules for emergency loans to Spanish banks and relax conditions on potential help for Italy. Gold came close to a bear market in May as some investors sold bullion to cover losses in stock markets as $7 trillion was erased from global equities in about two months.

“While demand has been weaker for bullion in recent months, it has picked up in the last month,” said Mark O’Byrne, the executive director of Dublin-based GoldCore Ltd., a brokerage that sells and stores everything from quarter-ounce British Sovereigns to 400-ounce bars. “A resolution to the crisis is not going to be seen in the short term. A lot more speculators could pile back into the market.”

Prices Slide

Gold tumbled 4.4 percent to $1,598.40 an ounce since the end of March, the biggest retreat since the third quarter of 2008. Bullion is up 2 percent this year which compares with an 8.8 percent slide in the Standard & Poor’s GSCI gauge of 24 commodities and a 3.9 percent advance in the MSCI All-Country World Index of equities. Treasuries returned 2.1 percent, a Bank of America Corp. index shows.

The metal fell 3.8 percent last week, the most this year, as the Federal Reserve refrained from announcing a new round of debt purchases to shore up growth. Bank of England Governor Mervyn King told lawmakers June 26 the world isn’t yet halfway through the global financial crisis that began in 2007 and said his backing for more stimulus this month reflected concern the outlook is deteriorating amid Europe’s debt crisis.

ETP Holdings

The 2,409 metric tons investors hold through ETPs is valued at about $124.8 billion and is within 0.1 percent of the record set in March, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Sales of American Eagle gold coins reached 54,500 ounces this month, the most since March, according to figures on the U.S. Mint’s website.

Central banks are also buying bullion, with Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and Kazakhstan expanding reserves by a combined 25 tons in May, International Monetary Fund data show. Purchases this year may exceed the 456 tons bought in 2011, Ashish Bhatia, the manager of government affairs at the World Gold Council, said in an interview in New York on June 19.

Physical demand in India, last year’s biggest buyer, “remains very much muted” after a weakening rupee boosted costs, Edel Tully, an analyst at UBS AG in London, wrote in a report yesterday. Domestic gold prices jumped to a record on June 19, three days before the rupee weakened to an all-time low, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Indian Demand

Indian demand also retreated this year after jewelers went on strike in March and April after the government raised taxes on imports. The Reserve Bank of India may cut gold-coin sales by banks, the Business Standard reported June 27, citing an unidentified official at the bank. Imports may drop to 20 tons to 25 tons this month from 55 tons to 60 tons a year ago, Prithviraj Kothari, the president of the Bombay Bullion Association, said in an interview June 19.

A strengthening dollar may limit gold’s anticipated gains. The U.S. Dollar Index, a measure against six currencies, rose 3.7 percent this quarter on signs the U.S. economy is improving, reaching a 21-month high June 1. The 30-week correlation coefficient between the dollar and bullion is now at -0.56, compared with -0.24 in September, with a figure of -1 meaning the two move opposite to each other.

German inflation fell to the weakest since January 2011 this month and U.S. inflation remains below the Fed’s 2 percent target. Some investors buy bullion as a hedge against inflation. Slowing growth in consumer prices is “difficult” for all asset classes including gold, Marcus Grubb, managing director for investment research at the World Gold Council, said in an interview in Hong Kong on June 27.

Bull Market

While Morgan Stanley cut its 2012 forecast by 8.1 percent to $1,677 yesterday, the bank’s analysts said investors should still buy bullion because the 11-year bull market isn’t over. Central banks will continue to stimulate economies and negative real interest rates in the U.S. will boost prices, they wrote.

In other commodities, 11 of 24 traders and analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect copper to climb next week and four were neutral. The metal for delivery in three months, the London Metal Exchange’s benchmark contract, is up 1.1 percent this year to $7,685.26 a ton.

Nine of 13 people surveyed said raw sugar will advance next week and four predicted declines. The commodity dropped 11 percent to 20.84 cents a pound since the start of January on ICE Futures U.S. in New York.

Sixteen of 27 people surveyed anticipate higher corn prices next week and five were neutral, while 14 of 26 said soybeans will increase and five predicted little change. Corn slipped 1 percent to $6.3925 a bushel this year as soybeans climbed 17 percent to $14.165 a bushel.

“The key issue is the uncertainty as to what’s going to happen in Europe, and that continues to unnerve and unsettle a lot of consumers,” said Jeremy Baker, who manages the $800-million Vontobel Belvista Commodity Fund in Zurich. “There are some very attractive commodities out there in terms of absolute prices, but we need to see some concrete steps from the European Union for the commodities to trend higher.”

Gold survey results: Bullish: 16 Bearish: 10 Hold: 5
Copper survey results: Bullish: 11 Bearish: 9 Hold: 4
Corn survey results: Bullish: 16 Bearish: 6 Hold: 5
Soybean survey results: Bullish: 14 Bearish: 7 Hold: 5
Raw sugar survey results: Bullish: 9 Bearish: 4 Hold: 0
White sugar survey results: Bullish: 9 Bearish: 4 Hold: 0
White sugar premium results: Widen: 4 Narrow: 6 Neutral: 3

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