Tag Archives: Gold price manipulation

Global Financial Turmoil, Gold Price Doesn’t Move

It’s remarkable the Greek tragedy has had no influence on the gold price in recent weeks. We’ve heard repeatedly Europe and Greece could not reach a deal for an extended bailout, are financial markets suffering from Euroscrisis fatigue?

Team Dijsselbloem-Juncker states they stretched all they could and offered the Greek government a reasonable deal that would require more reforms the Hellenic Republic, but team Varoufakis-Tsiparas will not agree with the proposed reforms. On Thursday June 25 another final meeting ended with no success, while Greece had a payment of €1.6 billion to the IMF coming up on June 30, negotiations were pushed to Saturday June 27. Dangerous territory, a bank holiday usually kicks of in the weekend when financial markets are closed.

Again, on Saturday June 27 no agreement could be reached, crowds started to appear at ATMs in Greece. The Greek government closed the banks, only allowing people to withdrawal €60 a day, and organized a referendum (held on Sunday July 5) to let the Greek people decide if the latest offer from their creditors should be accepted, yes or no.

On June 30 Greece defaulted by not paying the IMF €1.6 billion, followed by a media war between team Varoufakis-Tsiparas and Europe in which both sides are accusing each other of spreading false rumors on the current state of affairs; shaking the fundamentals of the great European project.

Concurrently the Chinese stock market fell into an abyss, from a peak on June 12 down 29 % on July 3, nearly ¥15 trillion yuan (over $2 trillion dollars) was moved out of the Shanghai Composite Index. Yet, recent financial turmoil has not moved the gold price. Not in dollars (or renminbi, as the renminbi is pegged to the US dollar):

Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 11.44.35 AM
From BullionStar Charts

Not in euros:

Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 11.45.03 AM
From BullionStar Charts

This smells like market rigging. Surely, the last thing the authorities need at this moment is gold on the move. Various media and bullion dealers reported demand for physical gold in Europe is strong. Walter Hell-Höflinger, owner of a gold shop in Austria, stated: “The critical thinkers have lost faith in politicians, their currencies and in the media. The price of gold is actually artificial.”

I’ve asked Torgny Persson, CEO of BullionStar.com in Singapore, and CEO of LibertySilver.se and LibertySilver.ee in Europe, about the recent sales dynamics at his bullion shops. This is what he told me:

- Precious metals demand in the last week leading up to the Greek referendum has been about 150 % higher than normal both in terms of order quantity and order volume. This is true for Bullionstar.com as well as for LibertySilver.se and Libertysilver.ee

- Based on my conversations with the western world’s leading refineries and precious metals wholesalers, they have experienced similar increases in the last week.

- There’s however no shortage of gold or silver at this point although bottlenecks in minting capacity may soon lead to prolonged delivery times if the demand is kept up. 

During week 25 (June 22 – 26) gold withdrawn from the vaults of the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) accounted for 46 tonnes. Year to date 1,162 tonnes have been withdrawn.

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE withdrawals delivery only 2014 - 2015 week 25

Withdrawals have been strong in recent weeks, however, at this point it’s not sure if SGE withdrawals equal Chinese wholesale demand. We’ll find out if more trade data is released.

In short, for the first time ever a developed country has defaulted on an IMF loan, the future of the euro is at stake (kindly note The Netherlands and Germany have backup currencies ready, that’s partially the reason they repatriate gold), the stock market of the world’s second largest economy declined by nearly 30 % in less than three weeks, but the gold price doesn’t move.

Rigging markets can be very effective, short-term. Remember ABN-AMRO wrote in June last year “gold’s safe haven status should be revised”, because the gold price was moving sideways since 2013. Some analysts and investors forget about thousands of years of history and go with the trend. No matter how you look at it, gold is in a bear market, but will it remain there?

Tomorrow the Greeks will vote and the European struggle continues. In fear of a financial meltdown China has desperately ordered fund managers to invest $19 billion of their own money into stocks, it suspended IPOs and launched a market-stabilization fund. Let’ see what happens.

Just in:

Germany suggests Greece could exit eurozone ‘temporarily’

Greece must introduce another currency if “no” vote wins – Schulz

Chinese banker: “The government must rescue the market, not with empty words, but with real silver and gold,”

Thoughts On The Price Of Gold

Withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold exchange (SGE), which equal Chinese wholesale gold demand, in week 12 (March 23 – 27) accounted for 46 tonnes, down 14.5 % w/w. Year to date total withdrawals have reached 607 tonnes, up 9 % from 2014, up 33 % from 2013.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 11.23.15 AM
Blue (本周交割量) is weekly gold withdrawn from the vaults in Kg, green (累计交割量) is the total YTD.

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE withdrawals delivery only 2014 - 2015 week 12 x

Shanghai Gold Exchange SGE withdrawals delivery 2015 week 12 dips x

Ever wondered why Chinese demand doesn’t move the price of gold substantially higher? A much perceived analysis in the gold space is that (central) banks suppress the price of gold. While it certainly is in their interest to control the price of gold and there are many clues they do intervene, in this post I would like to approach this subject from scratch, from what I believe is basic economics, hopefully sparking debate.

Thoughts On The Price Of Gold

In any market where goods are traded there is supply and demand. For this post we’ll look at the gold market to examine the relationship between both; there can be people offering gold for sale (supply), meeting people who are willing to buy gold (demand). If a transaction is agreed at a certain price the amount of gold sold (supply) is always equal to the amount of gold bought (demand), it’s impossible supply and demand are not equal by any measure – or one would use different metrics to measure either one.

When demand increases relative to supply (economic agents are willing to buy more gold at prevailing prices), the strength of demand will transcend the strength of supply. As a result the price of gold will rise until a new market equilibrium is found. The volume of gold bought in itself does not indicate the price will rise, for if an immense flood of supply would be unleashed that is being met by equally strong demand the price of gold will not change. No matter how much gold is sold, it won’t tell us anything about the strength of demand relative to supply, only the price can tell. The price unveils the forces of supply relative to demand.

In the graph below we can see how an increment in demand relative to supply can move the price.

Supply Demand curves

  • P – price
  • Q – quantity of good
  • S – supply
  • D – demand

In this example demand increases from Q1 to Q2, while supply remains constant; the price moves up from P1 to P2 for a new market equilibrium.

Technically, if India buys (or imports) 4,000 tonnes a year this doesn’t necessarily mean demand is strong, nor does it mean the price will go up or would have gone up in the process. If supply to India was stronger than demand from India, the price can go down while thousands of tonnes cross the globe (given India has no domestic mine production).

The gold market is quite unique and cannot be compared to other markets, like the potato market. The primary difference lays in the fact that gold can’t be consumed, as it doesn’t corrode all gold is immortal and can be recycled indefinitely. We humans can lose gold, but it can’t vanish. Therefor, all gold mined is added to the total above ground stock. In contrast, potatoes have a limited life span of itself and when eaten are digested. Yearly supply and demand of potatoes is determined by what is produced versus human trends that set our need for consumption.

Gold supply, on the other hand, is less determined by mining output, as this is effectively only a small percentage of the total above ground stock. It’s estimated yearly mining output is 1.6 % of the total above ground stock. In theory the total above ground stock is potential supply at the right price. The willingness to sell largely depends in which category the owner of the metal can be classified. Yearly mining output is likely to be sold no matter what the price is; above ground bullion can be sensitive to price movements; ancient gold artifacts are likely never to be sold; jewelry can have emotional value for owners, etc. Furthermore, no one is ever forced to sell – aside from government confiscation that have occurred in history. In short, the volume of yearly supply is elastic, but for sure it’s more than mining output.

Additionally, many other aspects determine the volume of supply and demand (the price). To name a few: technical analysis, trust in central banks, financial stability, real interest rates, stock market performance, inflation (expectations), the yield curve, disposable income, the strength of alternate currencies, industrial applications and supply and demand data (for example, if China buys 2,000 tonnes of gold per annum, but analysts worldwide state – for whatever reason – the Chinese buy 1,000 tonnes, this leads to distortion of sentiment as the market will react on false assumptions).

Next to physical supply and demand, the price is affected by gold derivatives – futures, options, forwards and unallocated gold – and the London Gold Fix. Derivatives are leveraged a multitude of physical supply and demand volumes and therefor have an equally greater impact on the price and sentiment, especially in the near term. In derivative markets the price of gold can be easily moved up or down to the likes of big traders in the short to medium term.

Terry Smeeton of the Bank Of England stated at the Australian Gold Conference in March of 1994 (from Frank Veneroso’s Gold Book 1998):

…at least 20 central banks are engaged in swaps, options and futures. This is double the number of banks who were regular players a few years ago.  

CME Group, the world’s biggest derivatives marketplace located in the US, launched a program in July 2013 to incentivize central banks outside the US to trade in a number of products, a few of which are Metals Futures Contracts traded on CME Globex, by offering them a special discount (click here to read the details from CME Group). I would be surprised if central banks don’t trade gold futures at this moment.

The London Gold Fix is set twice a day in the London gold market through an electronic, auction-based platform, at which currently seven bullion banks participate. The auction has been under scrutiny as its opaque nature is vulnerable for manipulation.

Gold Fix Chart

It should be noted that the volume of gold traded in the London OTC gold market is unknown, but estimated to be a few times the size of the futures market in New York (the COMEX).

Derivatives can be used by hedge funds, speculators, bullion banks and central banks to influence the price, subsequently influencing technical analysis and sentiment on which the rest of the market reacts. People can be scared to sell, however, when the price in the paper markets (derivatives) moves up or down, no physical gold owner is forced to sell at the paper prices except for miners. If the paper price goes down and physical demand increases this has to be met by equal physical supply, that is, if the price for physical gold follows the paper price. If the physical price disconnects from the paper price, premiums will appear at one location.

Reality Check

In 2013 the price of gold made a spectacular nosedive, which was followed by an even more impressive flight of physical gold from Western vaults to China. The UK net exported 1,424 tonnes of bullion, China net imported 1,507 tonnes.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.56.46 PM
BulionStar charts

According to my logic and textbooks the fall in the gold price and the physical moving east was a stronger force of supply than demand. We could quantify Chinese demand as “strong”, but apparently supply was stronger.

In the Gold Demand Trends Q2 2014, by the World Gold Council we can read:

The rapid 25% drop in the gold price during the April-June period of 2013 sparked a leap in gold demand that we have heard described as a ‘once in a generation’ event.

My point being, if central banks suppress the price of gold, this can only be done if physical gold is supplied to the market. So the question is, who is currently selling gold to China? (Or in the free market since the London Gold Pool collapsed in 1968.)

China is the largest miner of gold at 450 tonnes a year, though to satisfy domestic demand additional gold is imported; in 2013 Chinese net import exploded to 1,507 tonnes, my estimate for 2014 is at least 1,250 tonnes and year to date China has imported well over 400 tonnes. Is this sold by institutional investors in London (the LBMA system) or by central banks? Eventually time will tell. In the meantime I will continue to research how much gold is flowing to Asia and if there is any gold left in Fort Knox (read this and this post for my Fort Knox research).

Gold Price Manipulation Goes Mainstream On German TV

Public TV channel 3sat, which is a cooperation between Germany, Austria and Switzerland, broadcasted a short documentary on gold price manipulation on May 9, 2014. More and more mainstream news outlets are covering the allegedly gold price manipulation, after evidence is pilling up and many other market manipulations, like LIBOR, are coming out. From the Financial Times February 23, 2014:

Global gold prices may have been manipulated on 50 per cent of occasions between January 2010 and December 2013, according to analysis by Fideres, a consultancy.

The findings come amid a probe by German and UK regulators into alleged manipulation of the gold price, which is set twice a day by Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, Bank of Nova Scotia and Société Générale in a process known as the “London gold fixing”.

Fideres’ research found the gold price frequently climbs (or falls) once a twice-daily conference call between the five banks begins, peaks (or troughs) almost exactly as the call ends and then experiences a sharp reversal, a pattern it alleged may be evidence of “collusive behaviour”.

“The behaviour of the gold price is very suspicious in 50 per cent of the cases. This is not something you would expect to see if you take into account normal market factors,“ said Alberto Thomas, a partner at Fideres.

Oddly enough this article from the Financial Times was removed from their website two days after publication.

One of the most extensive researches that has been done on gold price manipulation is by Dimitri Speck in his book “The Gold Cartel”. On his website there is a chart that illustrates what Fideres’ found about the London gold fix. Dimitri Speck was, amongst others, interviewed by 3sat for the documentary.

London Gold Price Fix Manipulation Chart, By Dimitri Speck

I do not agree with everything that’s being said in the video, for example they state Chinese gold demand was 1066 tonnes in 2013, which is based upon numbers from the World Gold Council I happen to disagree with, or that it’s not necessary to invest in physical gold stored outside the banking system, though I thought it was worth sharing this clip with subtitles for the English speaking world. Germany is one of the few Western countries where there is a broad consensus about the importance of gold and sound money.

Press the captions button and choose English. Translated by Behfar Bastani.

Transcript:

Presenter: Good evening and welcome to the business magazine Makro. For many people, the purchase of gold represents a safe reserve for bad times. No wonder that, at the height of the financial crisis savers were queuing up at gold dealers. Throughout history, gold has served as a promise of reliability and stability. But today there are considerable doubts as to whether that promise remains valid, because an examination of gold prices reveals machinations fit for a financial thriller.

Narrator: London, the most important gold market in the world. Whether the price of gold rises or falls is determined here. Twice a day, a handful of bankers confer on the phone to fix the daily price of the precious metal. Thus arises the most important reference value for physical gold, used by businesses ranging from jewellers to gold mines. There is no public oversight for the “Fixing”. Apparently, this lack of restraint has led to serious manipulations of the gold price, as pointed out by a current investigation which has detected strange price movements spanning a number of years.

Rosa Abrantes-Metz: The setting of the gold fixing is, in my view, problematic. It opens the door for abuse and manipulation. There is absolutely no transparency in the arrangements made during the private phone conversations of this small group of participants as they decide what the price of gold should be.

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Narrator: Experts have long complained that this system is particularly susceptible to manipulation. Only five banks participate in the London gold fix, thus far including the Deutsche Bank. In the more extreme futures markets, where bets are made on gold price developments in future months, the quantities that exchange hands are of quite different magnitudes.

Folker Hellmeyer: We have a situation where this market is dominated by three essential players, three banks, in the USA. These banks have a market share on the order of 80 percent. In other words, we are talking about an almost monopolistic structure which of course also provides the power to manipulate the market.

Narrator: And which power is apparently being abundantly used. The futures market, intended to provide predictability and stability for future prices, is controlled by the following three banks: HSBC, Citibank, and JP Morgan. Their tool: paper gold securities.

Thorsten Schulte: It is possible to simply sell scraps of paper, thereby creating fear, especially fear among those who possess gold in its physical form, and who may then arrange to sell their metal, eventually resulting in such a a wave of fear …

Narrator: The gold price has been attacked in this fashion time and again, often with massive price declines within a matter of a few minutes. Yet, there is quite a bit more to the story.

Dimitri Speck: Gold is the opponent of debt based moneys, i.e. currencies, and in particular the US Dollar. Therefore, the US Federal Reserve has an interest in a weak gold price, and the US government protects the manipulation of the gold price by the private banks.

Narrator: For years, the US Federal Reserve has served as the lender of last resort. Gold must be weak if a loss of confidence in the US Dollar is to be averted. It has been difficult to prove that this is a rigged game with a stacked deck, but if the gold market manipulations are indeed encouraged in addition to being condoned, that would explain why oversight bodies have thus far turned a blind eye to it, despite years of massive conspicuous activities in the futures markets, as with the gold fixing in London.

Presenter: Incidentally, the Deutsche Bank intends to withdraw from the gold fix. As of now, no other bank has expressed an interest
in filling that spot. Too many banks are scared to damage their good reputation in London. Gold is a speculation commodity with a high symbolic power. Its price is therefore strongly influenced by many fears and hopes. Here are a few facts about that from our Makroskop.

Narrator: 31.1 grams, the weight of one ounce of refined gold. The precious metal is regarded foremost as protection in times of crisis. Gold climbed rapidly during the financial and economic crisis. Currently gold trades for about USD $1300 per ounce. Yet the more hopes grow for an end to the international economic slowdown, the more the price of gold declines. The US government continues to hold the largest governmental gold reserves at 261.6 million ounces, over 8100 metric tonnes. The US is followed by Germany, Italy, France, and China. But the largest demand comes from the Middle Kingdom. From gold coins to gold bars, the Chinese are accumulating large quantities. In 2013 the Chinese acquired 1065.8 tonnes, moving for the first time ahead of the Indians who purchased 974.8 tonnes in 2013. Jewellery accounts for the highest portion of the demand. In China, jewellery sales have tripled since 2004. They represent about 30 percent of worldwide demand. About 400 tonnes was purchased by businesses. In particular, China’s electronic manufacturers need industrial gold for production. Meanwhile, in the mining sector, China has risen from being a small player to become the number one gold producing country. In the past tens years, Chinese gold production has more than doubled from 217 to 437 tonnes.

Presenter: Today, the course of the gold market is being set by China. What are the worldwide consequences of this? Let’s talk about that with the chief editor of the Frankfurter Börsenbrief.

Presenter: A very good evening to you, Mr. Bernhard Klinzing. These days the flow of gold seems to be from the west to the east, as we have just seen. There are considerably more buyers in Asia than in the developed western countries. What do you attribute this to?

Klinzing: The reason is that India and China, which together make up half the gold market, do not have state provided elder care, which is valued differently there. Inflation fears are another factor. “The Chinese are the Germans of Asia”, it is said, and so they sit on gold.

Presenter: We have seen that the price of gold is heavily manipulated. There are manipulators that are apparently backed
from the highest places. Do you believe that, or do you regard it as a conspiracy theory?

Klinzing: I don’t believe that based on the Deutsche Bank and the London fix, but based on what we just saw from the Americans I absolutely do see that danger, because there is a quasi “Edward Snowden”. His name is Paul Roberts and he worked at the US treasury department and he has confirmed that the Fed, together with a number of banks, are preventing gold from rising above $1400 per ounce by continually providing gold bids which put downward pressure on the price.

Presenter: Given the unsound loans that came to light in the Libor scandal or the forex markets, do you believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg in the gold trade?

Klinzing: I would say that we are only seeing a snow ball from the iceberg while a lot more is hidden at the bottom. The banks earn a hefty sum whenever they fix the gold price by as little as 1/10th of a US Dollar upwards or downwards. You can see that with Goldman Sachs who published studies predicting gold’s decline to $950 per ounce while at the same time increasing their own gold positions by 20%. That does not match up. Presenter: What are some consequences for other market participants? You stated that the banks are lining their pockets, but what are some of the consequences?

Klinzing: Yes, there is a hedge fund manager by the name of William Kaye who has said that the German gold is no longer stored in the vaults of the Fed in New York, but has already found its way to China because the Fed needed the gold in order to carry out its market manipulations. This is as yet only a suspicion, and it may even be a conspiracy theory, but the Germans were denied an opportunity to touch or take samples of their own gold in New York.

Presenter: One could hardly think up a better plot for an economic thriller. I would like to talk about investors again. Is gold a good investment for the, let’s say, small investor?

Klinzing: One should not construct a portfolio with only gold, that much should be clear. But of course gold is a very attractive portfolio addition, whereby investors can insure the value of their portfolio against currency risks. Because if the Euro rises, the value of gold falls, so you can participate only less than possible, therefore invest always in a currency protected fashion.

Presenter: How can I do that as an investor?

Klinzing: There are certificates for doing this, there is no need for an investor to store gold in their own vault or under their pillow. For that there are very good solutions on the financial markets.

Presenter: Before we wrap up, what are your thoughts on how the gold price develops further from here?

Klinzing: We can see that in China the standard of living is rising, the middle class will grow from 300 million people to 500 million by 2020, and urbanization is accelerating. This means that there will be much more demand for gold from China, as well as from India. I don’t believe that gold will break $1400 per ounce this year, but we will see a new gold rally in the next few years.

Presenter: An overview of the gold price from Bernhard Klinzing of the Frankfurter Börsenbrief. Thank you for being on the show with us tonight. Dear viewers, if you have any questions for our studio guest, please visit the Makro blog where Mr. Klinzing will be available for a little while longer after the show. On our homepage you will also find additional background material on the topic of gold.

In Gold We Trust