Sales of gold coins by the U.S. Mint, the world’s largest, are heading for the worst month since September after prices jumped to a 16-week high.
The volume climbed to 24,500 ounces so far this month from 91,500 ounces in January, which was the highest since April, mint data shows. Coin sales totaled 80,500 ounces in February 2013, and 13,000 ounces in September.
Bullion, which slumped 28 percent last year, has rebounded 11 percent and is heading for a second straight monthly gain as concern about faltering global growth increases demand for the precious metal as a haven. The net-long position on gold, or bets on higher prices, climbed 31 percent to 90,942 futures and options contracts as of Feb. 18, a 16-week high, according to the latest U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data.
“Many physical buyers have retreated after the surge in prices,” Miguel Perez-Santalla, a vice president at New York-based BullionVault, an online service for buying physical metal, said in a telephone interview today.
In January, gold futures rose 3.1 percent, snapping a four-month slump, as a rout in emerging-market currencies and slowing growth in U.S. increased demand for the metal as an alternative investment. Mints from the U.S. to Australia witnessed a jump in sales, with Austria’s Muenze Oesterreich AG operation running 24 hours a day to meet a surge in demand.
Bullion slumped to a 34-month low in June on its way to its first annual drop since 2000 last year after some investors lost faith in the metal amid a rally in equities and signs of an improving U.S. economy.
Some analysts are split on the outlook for prices. Gold has lost its luster and will decline to $1,011 an ounce in December as the Fed tapers and the dollar strengthens, Westpac Banking Corp. said Feb. 20. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. sees prices dropping to $1,050 by the end of the year. UBS AG said Feb. 19 that the metal has “started to shed its stigma,” and increased its 2014 forecast to $1,300 from $1,200.
Gold futures for April delivery climbed 0.6 percent to $1,332 at 9:50 a.m. on the Comex in New York. Prices earlier touched $1,337.10, the highest for a most-active contract since Oct. 31.