Precious Metals
Gold prices since 2013

Gold prices since 2013. Source:MetalMiner analysis of @stockcharts.com data.

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.

Therefore, China’s demand growth for metals or the potential boost in U.S. infrastructure spending are factors that aren’t really helping push gold prices higher unlike industrial commodities.

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What’s causing gold prices fall dramatically? The U.S. dollar.

Gold (in dark) vs the dollar index (in green)

Gold (in dark) vs the dollar index (in green). Source: MetalMiner analysis of @stockcharts.com.

Since mid-August the dollar started a bull run that is still in play. Three main factors are propelling the dollar’s bull run:

Markets expected the Federal Reserve to raise rates by the end of the year. In December the Fed raised interest rates by a quarter point, as expected, but policymakers signaled a likelihood of three increases in 2017, up from prior expectations for two moves. While interest rates outside the U.S. stay near zero or even in negative territory, it’s no wonder yield-seeking investors are going after the greenback.

The ongoing political tensions in Europe are causing the dollar to appreciate against the euro. The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, Brexit, terrorist attacks and political instability are some of the events causing investors to lose their appetite for the European currency this year.

Finally, the victory of Donald Trump has added fuel to the dollar’s bull market. The new president-elect has proposed new tax policies that will potentially make multinational companies bring their foreign profits back to U.S., increasing the demand for dollars. In addition, the dollar is perceived as a stronger currency since investors expect growth in US to get a boost.

What This Means For Metal Buyers

As long as the dollar continues to rise, there is little hope for gold investors to make returns. Gold buyers should wait closely for weakness in the dollar before buying gold. For now, sentiment on the dollar continues to be quite bullish.

MetalMiner’s Global Precious Metals MMI dropped two points this month to 79, from 81 in November; a 2.5% decrease. But that’s less the story than what happened within this precious metals sub-index.

The PGM Story

As we said last month, longer-term structural concerns remain for the platinum-group metals (PGMs), especially platinum and palladium. However, in the short term, one of those two precious metals that are instrumental in automotive catalytic converters kept the Global Precious MMI from falling even further for December.

Global-Precious-Metals_Chart_December-2016_FNL

Indeed, with gold and silver falling across all four geographic markets (see below), our U.S palladium bar price jumped to an 18-month high, rising a whopping 24% month-over-month. Japanese palladium also rose appreciably.

The platinum bar price, however, did the reverse. Our U.S. platinum bar price hit a 10-month low, dropping 7% since Nov. 1.

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Crossing like ships in the night, one heading north, one heading south, what should buyers make of the platinum/palladium divergence?

According to HSBC senior analyst James Steel, talking to Platts, “the platinum-palladium spread has narrowed substantially, from $375/ounce before the U.S. election. This reflects clearly tighter underlying fundamentals for palladium.”

With car sales in the U.S. and China continuing to be robust, and with Johnson Matthey predicting another supply deficit in 2017, palladium could continue its buoyancy for the near future.

The Dollar –> Infrastructure –> Gold

Raul de Frutos gave MetalMiner readers this helpful rundown in late November:

A rising dollar depresses commodity prices, especially precious metals. It does have less of an effect on more economically-sensitive groups like energy and industrial metals. Indeed, industrial metals are on the rise despite a strong dollar. This is because the dollar is rising on expectations of higher rates down the road but, at the same time, metal prices are getting an additional boost because of Trump’s plans to spend big on the nation’s infrastructure. However, gold’s demand won’t be affected by infrastructure spending. As a result, investors are left without reasons to buy gold at this moment.

That still appears to be the case here in early December, as the US gold price on our MetalMiner IndX hit its lowest point in 10 months, falling to $1,173/oz on Dec. 1 — just over an 8% drop from Nov. 1.

(Silver prices followed suit across 4 markets globally, all dropping from November to December.)

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Our November metal price trends report showed an industrial metals complex buoyed by strong Chinese demand and bullish on the future, thanks to the election of republican presidential candidate Donald Trump who promises to curtail regulations on metals producers and the energy suppliers that provide power for smelting, steelmaking and mining.

MM-IndX_TRENDS_Chart_November2016_FNL-TOPVALUE100

While some of the metals turned in a flat performance during the month of October, almost all quickly took off after the election. Now, as our lead forecasting analyst, Raul de Frutos, recently wrote, the industrial metal bulls are in full charge.

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The minor metals remained flat, but that’s no surprise to any buyer at this point. The fact that rare earth miner Lynas Corp. received a lifeline from a hedge fund and a Japanese state-owned enterprise was a minor (metals) surprise itself.

It’s a good time to be a producer of base metals as it looks like the bulls may continue to run in 2017. For more information on how to plan your purchases well into the New Year, consult our monthly metal buying outlook.

Last night, Republican nominee and developer Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States.

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Gold jumped nearly 5% to $1,337.40 an ounce early Wednesday to its highest in six weeks as investors snapped up safe havens. This was gold’s biggest single-day gain since June 24 when it rose as much as 8% when Britain decided to leave the European Union. It closed up 4.8% that day. However, prices almost immediately began to retreat this morning. It’s back below to $1,281.50/ounce as of this writing (10:45 AM Central), near its closing yesterday of $1,275.80/ounce.

A Trump win, which many believe leads to economic and global uncertainty, may also push the  Federal Reserve to hold off from raising interest rates next month.

MetalMiner’s Global Precious MMI dropped 5.8% to a value of 81 for November, the sub-index’s lowest level since June.

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In the midst of worries over the U.S. presidential election and the Federal Reserve‘s interest rate moves, precious metal prices have been on the rise over the past week.

Global-Precious-Metals_Chart_November-2016_FNL

Many investors are girding for a Brexit-like jump if Republican contender Donald Trump wins; the U.S. palladium price, for example, coming off $700/ounce-level highs from early October to just around $600/oz at the start of November, jumped back up to $630 mid-last week.

Focus on Palladium Prices

While some more short-term spikes are undoubtedly coming, longer-term structural concerns continue to swirl around the PGM markets in particular.

In just last month’s analysis of another MetalMiner monthly sub-index (the Automotive MMI), my colleague Jeff Yoders brought up excellent points about the state of the platinum group metals:

“The increasing cost of PGMs was keeping the Automotive MMI in positive territory for most of the first three quarters of 2015. The pullback in precious metals prices could pull the rug out from under automotive, too. The catalyst metals never took off for investors the way that gold did and that’s bad news for their prices as supply was never really in much doubt without more investor interest.”

Now, it looks as though that’s coming true.

Bloomberg reports that palladium futures “tumbled to the lowest in more than three months amid signs of weakening investment and physical demand for the metal used in auto pollution control devices.”

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Phil Streible, a senior market strategist at RJO Futures in Chicago, told Bloomberg that “demand is really starting to fall.”

“You’re going to see that as interest rates go up in the U.S., auto loan rates will rise and you’re probably going to see automobile sales decline,” according to Streible.

The Rest of the Precious Metals

Platinum, silver and gold prices fell across the board from October to November, across geographies including the U.S., China and India.

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Financial markets are beginning to believe the Federal Reserve is finally serious about increasing interest rates.

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At least, that’s the simplest explanation for rising treasury yields and the U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback vs. a basket of major currencies, hitting the highest level in seven months.

US Dollar Index hits 7-month high

The U.S. dollar Index hits a seven-month high. Source: @stockcharts.com.

While the Fed has repeatedly pronounced its intentions to raise rates, markets took those announcements with a grain of salt, pricing in a lower future rate than what the Fed was promising.

Fed Turns Hawkish

However, since October, the 10-year Treasury yield has risen significantly as markets now see a 67% chance of a rate hike in the December meeting. Higher interest rates make the dollar more attractive to yield-seeking investors. Moreover, the dollar rose as most other major world currencies slid, particularly the British pound, which was depressed by Brexit concerns.

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A rising dollar has a negative impact on metal prices. Metals are priced in dollars and when the value of the dollar rises, it takes more more of them to buy metals. Another reason is that when the value of the dollar rises, foreign buyers have less buying power, typically causing demand for metals to shrink.

Gold plunges as dollar rises

Gold plunges as the dollar rises. Source: MetalMiner analysis of @StockCharts.com data.

This is particularly true in the case of gold and something we mentioned in September. Recently, gold prices fell to a four-month low as the dollar rose.

What This Means For Metal Buyers

The dollar is not the only thing that moves metal prices but it is important. If the Fed raises rates this year that would likely strengthen the dollar, adding pressure to metal prices. On the other hand, if future Fed decisions disappoint, that would weaken the dollar, having a bullish effect on metal prices.

According to SIMA data, steel imports fell in September and gold is seeing a bounce back as bargain hunters take advantage of its low price.

Steel Imports Fall

Based on the Commerce Department’s most recent Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis (SIMA) data, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported today that steel import permit applications for the month of September totaled 2,846,000 net tons.

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This was a 7% decrease from the 3,066,000 permit tons recorded in August and a 5% decrease from the August preliminary imports total of 2,989,000 nt. Import permit tonnage for finished steel in September was 2,090,000 nt, down 9% from the preliminary imports total of 2,307,000 nt in August.

For the first nine months of 2016 (including September SIMA permits and August preliminary data), total and finished steel imports were 24,808,000 nt and 19,691,000 nt, down 20% and 22%, respectively, from the same period in 2015. The estimated finished steel import market share in September was 25% and is 25% year-to-date.

Bargain Hunters Buy Up Physical Gold

Physical gold demand in London jumped after this week’s big price drop, dealers said yesterday.

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Bargain hunters came to the market because of the metal’s technically-driven slide. Online gold trading platform BullionVault.com saw its heaviest trading day on Tuesday since its all-time record on June 24, the day of the U.K. referendum result on European Union membership.

Our Global Precious MMI was up a point this month, climbing to 86 from 85 last month, an increase of 1.2%, but this may be the last increase we see for awhile as gold experienced its biggest single-day post-Brexit drop yesterday. It closed at $1,268.40 an ounce, a slide of 3%, down from $1,311.20 on Monday. It’s around $1,275 as of this writing.

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The yellow metal was dragged to its lowest point since the Brexit vote in June which was driven mainly by a bounce in the U.S. dollar after upbeat data triggered a break of key support at $1,300 an ounce. As speculation grows that the Federal Reserve may finally raise interest rates in December, the dollar has been given a boost and a selloff in gold has ensued. Losses in silver and platinum group metals have followed, although none fell as dramatically as gold this week.

Global-Precious-Metals_Chart_Ocotber-2016_FNL

We warned, earlier this month, that the first half investment appeal of precious metals was waning. The relatively tepid increase in September was a sign that the metals, as a group, simply could not keep the momentum of the first half. Most are blaming this pullback on the dollar, and that certainly has a lot to do with it, but the fact that economic fears about the U.S. economy have been quelled might be the real culprit.

U.S. manufacturing rebounded in September after contracting in August. New orders and production at factories increased, although employment fell. The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its manufacturing index rose to 51.5 in September from 49.4 in August. Any score above 50 is a net expansion in manufacturing activity.

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While gold is the most for-investment metal of the group, the others are experiencing similar effects as gold and their supply/demand fundamentals aren’t much better. Silver is more industrial, but acts as a safe haven, too, a veritable poor man’s gold. Platinum and palladium are more tied to the automotive and other catalyst markets. Still, they are moving largely in lock-step right now and have been doing so since the dollar bottomed out in May. Platinum is receiving a particularly cold shoulder from investors. The metal is well-supplied even if investment demand increases.

What Does This Mean for Precious Buyers?

A stronger dollar and better economic data about the U.S. economy is bad for the investment appeal of precious metals. More data will come out in the days leading up to the presidential election but precious metals’ gains of the first half are likely a thing of the past.

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The IMF has downgraded its U.S. growth outlook and Canada’s Goldcorp has been forced to shut down one of its largest mines in Mexico.

IMF Downgrades U.S.

The International Monetary Fund is downgrading its forecast for the U.S. economy this year and warns that political discontent threatens global growth.

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The IMF on Tuesday cut its estimate for U.S. economic growth in 2016 to 1.6% from the 2.2% it had predicted in July. The American economy grew 2.6% in 2015. The fund’s dimmer outlook for the U.S. occurs even as the Federal Reserve is thought to be preparing to raise interest rates in December.

The global economy will expand 3.1% this year, it said — the same as forecast in July.

The IMF described worldwide growth as “subpar,” with a slowdown in the U.S. and other advanced economies being offset by slightly stronger output in developing and emerging nations.

Goldcorp Shuts Down Blockaded Mexican Mine

Goldcorp Inc. said on Monday it was temporarily shutting down its Peñasquito gold mine in Mexico as it was unable to safely continue operations due to a week-long blockade by a trucking contractor, sending its shares down nearly 5%.

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The world’s No. 3 gold miner by market value said it was unable to bring in food, water and fuel for the 750 people on the site, which has been blockaded by a contractor concerned about losing business due to efficiency improvements at the mine.

Investors are still giving platinum the cold shoulder and oil production likely hit its recent high in September. Oil likely hit an output record in September.

Platinum Still Not Trusted

Investors bruised by platinum’s dismal failure to capitalize on a five-month strike in 2014 are not convinced that stocks of the metal have shrunk enough to justify a return to the market, despite positive supply-side news this year.

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Uncertainty over how abundant stocks of the metal are is continuing to curb investment interest in the metal, with holdings of platinum-backed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) falling to their lowest since mid-2013 this month.

Oil Likely Hit an Output Record in September

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries‘ oil output is likely to reach its highest in recent history in September, a Reuters survey found on Friday, as Iraq boosted northern exports and Libya reopened some of its main oil terminals.

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The increase comes despite lower output in top exporter Saudi Arabia and this week’s OPEC agreement in Algeria to limit supply to support prices.