The British pound slumped to its lowest level since 1985 early this morning as results of the U.K.’s vote on European Union membership came in with the leave campaign winning the vote by close to a 2% margin.
The currency tumbled to as low as $1.3460 on Friday, which was its lowest level in 31 years.
It fell about 10% from the 2016 high of $1.50, which it hit just hours earlier when most polls suggested the remain campaign had a slight polling lead. That was before polls closed.
As of this writing, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures are down 600 points, nearly 3%, hours before U.S. markets open. Japan’s Nikkei Average, which was open and trading as the votes were counted, dropped 8% while the U.S. dollar briefly fell below 100 yen to a dollar.
A federal judge has ruled the federal government cannot set rules for hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” on public lands and, no matter what the U.K. decides in its EU Brexit vote, gold’s bull run is likely over.
Judge Tells Interior Dept. it Can’t Set Fracking Rules
A federal judge in Wyoming made permanent a temporary block of an Interior Department rule setting stricter standards for hydraulic fracturing on public lands, a blow to President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda in the sunset of his administration.
U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl issued a ruling late Tuesday invalidating the regulation, saying the Interior Department lacked the authority to issue it. The same judge last year issued a preliminary injunction blocking the rule until he made a final decision.
The rule, issued by department’s Bureau of Land Management in March 2015, applies to oil and gas drilling on federal lands, which produce 11% of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. and 5% of the oil, according to government data. The government can appeal the ruling.
Brexit Vote Likely to End Gold’s Run
No matter if the U.K. votes to stay in the European Union or leave, Gold’s sharp gains on uncertainty over its membership are likely to come to an end after Thursday’s referendum.
There are mainly three factors contributing to the price move:
Gold hits new highs on falling bond yields and economic fears. Source: @Stockcharts.com
The yellow metal is being bought as a hedge against falling global stocks. The unusually dovish comments from the Federal Reserve last Wednesday showed a lot more pessimism on the U.S. and global economy while investors fear that central banks are losing their ability to boost global stocks or economies. Moreover, this week’s British Brexit vote is causing a lot of global volatility.
NYSE Composite Index acting like 2007’s top. Source: stockcharts.com
As we warned in May, stock markets pulled back in June. There is no guarantee that the worst has passed. Indeed, so far we are just witnessing choppy action.
Unlike the base metals, however, our precious metals are not facing bifurcated markets where U.S. tariffs are keeping domestic prices high. As almost always with precious, this month’s fall was a global phenomenon.
Johnson Matthey is weathering the storm as best as it can this year as platinum group metals prices are starting to lose the momentum the first half of the year promised.
Production Surplus Stubbornly Lingers
According to Thomson Reuters‘ “GFMS Platinum Group Metals Survey,” a rebound in mine production last year pushed the platinum market back into a marginal physical surplus, despite improved demand.
Macroeconomics have continued gold’s roller coaster ride this month. Before Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen dialed back expectations of an interest rate hike this week — after a bad jobs report — a strengthening U.S. dollar dragged gold prices down for much of May. Now, though, with a dovish Fed, gold is strengthening again. Silver has taken a similar ride.
The investment and industrial metals, globally, saw prices fall this month as a storm of both bad economic data for the investment metals and oversupply for the industrial metals came together. Yet, even as I write this gold and silver are strengthening again as the dollar weakens in light of that horrid jobs report. But it might just be that neither industrial demand nor monetary policy will be the story of the last six months of 2016 in precious metals.
Jessica Fung, a metals strategist at BMO Capital Markets, said in the Wall Street Journal that slowing global growth should help push gold higher and likely bring silver with it.
“We believe focusing on the Fed alone is simplistic and only drives very near-term sentiment and volatility,” Ms. Fung wrote in a note. “The potential impact of sluggish global growth on the U.S. economy should not be ignored.”
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The U.S. dollar strengthened amid new expectations that the Federal Reserve might be more aggressive than expected in raising interest rates. As we can see in the chart below, recent strength in the US dollar pulled gold down in May.
Gold (in yellow) weakens in May as US dollar index (in green) rises. Source: @StockCharts.com.
Higher rates in the U.S. usually strengthens the dollar, which is bearish for dollar-denominated commodities, like gold. Moreover, higher rates make it harder for gold to compete as an investment against debts that yield interest. Finally, fears that the global economy is heading into recession have momentarily waned, which didn’t help gold in May.
Definitely not physical demand. Gold is the only commodity wherein physical annual demand is only a tiny fraction of total supply available and shortages of gold caused by physical demand never happen. Gold investors should pay attention to other factors:
Potential Panic in Stock Markets
Although stock markets stopped the bleeding in May, there is no guarantee that the worst has passed. Indeed, so far we are just witnessing choppy action. U.S. stock indexes have shown only back-and-forth action for more than a year now. This market action is typical of a market top. The smarter investors start to sell, while the not-so-savvy investors keep buying. This creates hesitation followed by up and down moves and some sharp declines.
NYSE Composite Index acting like 2007’s top. Source: @StockCharts.com.
Fed officials earlier this year warned that global economic and financial uncertainty posed risks to the domestic economy which justified a slower pace of rate hikes. However in their meeting at the end of April, the Fed said that those risks had receded, keeping its options open for a rate increase in June.
However, global uncertainties are still there and it’s yet to be seen if the Fed will actually increase rates two or three times this year as markets now expect. Now that expectations on future rate hikes are high, if they don’t materialize the U.S. dollar could get hit significantly. The dollar might have risen in May on new Fed comments but those comments are yet to be proven by any real actions.
What This Means For Metal Buyers
Gold prices pulled back in May but it’s too early to turn bearish on gold. Global stock markets are still troubled and the Fed has yet to prove those promised rate hikes. Gold buyers should keep a close eye on these markets.
As gold continues to flirt with $1,300 an ounce, some major investors are making opposite bets on the investment metal in the SPDR Gold ETF.
Paulson or Soros Will Be Wrong About Gold
Gold bull John Paulson slashed his bets on bullion while billionaire investor George Soros and other big funds returned to the metal for the first time in years, filings showed on Monday, as prices staged their biggest rally in nearly 30 years.
New York-based hedge fund Paulson & Co., one of the world’s most influential gold investors, slashed its investment in SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s biggest gold exchanged-traded fund (ETF), by 17% to 4.8 million shares, Securities and Exchange Commission filings showed on Monday.
China’s Largest Private Steelmaker: We Need Even More Gov’t Support
Jiangsu Shagang, the listed unit of China’s biggest privately-owned steel producer, said on Monday the Chinese government should provide steelmakers with even more support in their efforts to export products and shift capacity overseas. China’s massive steel sector has come under growing international scrutiny, with foreign steelmakers accusing the country’s firms of flooding the global market with cheap, subsidized steel and driving them out of business.
Silver has mostly caught up to its investment metal cousin, too, thanks to its dual use as an industrial and precious metal. Silver miners are seeing their stock prices increase as supply has been constrained by recent mine shutdowns.
As with most of the metals we track, China is the biggest consumer and biggest producer of gold. So, the news that China’s central bank and customs service will allow companies that have “frequent imports and exports” of gold and gold products to apply for a single permit that can be used in as many as 12 shipments was welcome for both producers and consumers. The trial to simplify the rules takes effect June 1 and applies to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Nanjing and Shenzhen, the bank said in a statement.
Aside from loosened regulations, the investment metals are sitting in a good, fundamental place. The safe haven status of both gold and silver continues to help their prices as the Federal Reserveagain showed no stomach for interest rate increases this month.
As my colleague, Raul de Frutos, recently wrote, this has led to the weakest U.S. dollar in 15 months and sent investors flocking to silver, gold and even the platinum group metals. That’s right, 15-month high for gold, 15-month low for the U.S. dollar index. The correlation, gold-to-dollar, is way more reliable that any physical demand indicator of gold.
It seems as if the Fed’s dovishness is catching on globally, too. Japan was expected to implement a fresh round of stimulus to weaken the yen to combat low inflation. However The Bank of Japan kept interest rates unchanged this month.
Chinese regulators remain adamant about keeping commodities from becoming speculative casinos there and Glencore is attempting to sell one of its biggest gold mines while prices are still high.
Chinese Regulators Tamp Down Speculation
Chinese regulators appear to have successfully popped a mini-bubble for now in steel and other commodity futures, scaring off speculators who piled in last month to drive steep gains in the prices of raw materials from coal to cotton.
China has vowed that it won’t allow its commodity futures markets to become a hot-bed for speculators, fearing that price movements not based on fundamentals could skew investment decisions and hamper efforts to rein in overcapacity, Reuters reported.
Glencore Looks to Sell Mine
Mining company Glencore is considering selling its Vasilkovskoye gold mine in Kazakhstan, sources close to the deal said on Tuesday, confirming an earlier report in the Financial Times. The sources said the assets were worth more than $2 billion. “A sale is one of the options,” one source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Encouraged by a sharp fall in the dollar and a doveish stance by the Federal Reserve, the metal climbed 1% to $1,262.77 an ounce as the dollar fell over 2% against the yen after the Bank of Japan decided not to further ease monetary policy.
Source: Financial Times
Gold had continued a long decline last year from it’s peak in Q3, 2011, but along with all other metals it has rallied some 19% so far this year as investors have plowed back into gold-backed exchange traded funds, encouraged by a relaxation in the Fed’s stance on interest rates and, from that, the prospects for inflation in the medium term. Read more
In March and February, gold prices — whether U.S., Indian or Chinese — were the standout performers, with some even nearly doubling in value as investors stocked up on the hard currency as a haven from a falling U.S. dollar and other global economic turmoil.
But that’s not the case this month. Gold lost value in all the markets we track, a predictable pullback from its runaway performance during most of the first quarter. The precious metal that’s pacing the globe and keeping our sub-index positive is silver, helping the sub-index achieve a 1.2% increase.
Sure, the platinum group metals were predictably positive, too, but silver’s unique position as both an investment and industrial metal allowed it to gain in all the markets we track and its future potential is stronger as safe haven status doesn’t make up such a huge part of its value as with its cousin, gold.
Secondary Mining, Primary Industrial Usage
Silver is mined alongside just about every industrial metal in the world and selling it has been padding the profits of base metal miners during the first quarter. U.S.-based primary silver producer Coeur Mining reported Q1 production of 3.4 million ounces of silver and slightly more than 78,000 ounces of gold. That was in line with expectations, as the company transitions to lower-tonnage, higher-grade, higher-margin underground operations from two ore sources, Guadalupe and Independencia in Mexico.
The electronics uses of silver are pushing miners to bet their future on the metal as its still the world’s best conductor of electrical current and heat. Electronics in automobiles such as Tesla Motors‘ new Model 3 “affordable” electric car will require more silver than any automobile on the road today. And electronics are already invading the comfort of our conveyances more than ever before.
When you add electrical transmission and use in renewables to silver’s demand side equation it’s easy to understand why its global prices could easily keep rising independently of its performance as an investment.
What This Means for Metal Buyers
Continue to expect silver and PGMs to experience strong demand independent of investment potential. Gold could still gain back its losses but its prospects, long-term, are not as strong.