Gold prices fuelled by weaker dollar

Precious metals were also boosted by the weakening dollar, at the day’s highs were up an average of 1.8 percent, led by a 3.2 percent rise in platinum and the complex closed up with gains of 1.6 percent, with gold prices closing up 1.2 percent at $1,155.50, after a high of 1,157.50.

The base metals continued higher on Thursday propelled by the weaker dollar and short-covering, at the day’s highs average gains were 1.7 percent, with lead and tin up two percent, by the close  average gains had pulled-back to 0.8 percent, with zinc up the most with a 1.1 percent rise, while copper closed up one percent at $4,692.50.

This morning the base metals have given back some of their gains, prices are down an average of 0.7 percent, led by a 1.4 percent in lead, with copper down 0.7 percent at $4,659. Volume has been light with 3,230 lots traded.

Precious metals are little changed, platinum prices are down 0.4 percent, palladium prices are up 0.4 percent, gold prices are little changed at $1,155.20 and silver prices are down 0.2 percent.

In Shanghai, trading has been mixed, copper, aluminium and zinc have seen prices move slightly higher with copper up 0.5 percent at Rmb 36,210, while lead, nickel and tin have weakened, led by a 1.4 percent drop in lead.  Spot copper in Changjiang is unchanged at Rmb 35,900-36,00, the contango between spot and the futures is around an equivalent of $32 per tonne and the LME/Shanghai copper arb has narrowed to around 7.75, which suggests the arb window is open for nearby dates, less so further for forward dates. So a quiet end to the year of the goat.

In other metals iron ore remains buoyant at around $44.70, steel rebar is off 0.5 percent, gold prices are up 1.3 percent and silver is up 0.8 percent. In global markets, Brent crude oil prices are last at $34.29, with WTI at $31.70.

Equities were firmer yesterday with the Euro Stoxx 50 up 0.3 percent and the Dow closed up 0.5 percent, many mining shares were up between 10 and 20 percent during the day, suggesting the market was having difficulty pricing them. In Asia this morning, the markets are mixed, the Nikkei is off 1.3 percent, hurt by the strong yen, the Hang Seng is up 0.4 percent, the CSI 300 is off 0.3 percent, the ASX 200 is surprisingly off 0.1 percent – despite the strong mining shares, and the Kospi is up 0.1 percent.

In FX, the dollar fell further with the dollar index falling to a low of 96.26, the lowest it has been since late–October. Finally it does look as though sentiment has come round to the view that the dollar had run ahead of itself ahead of the Fed rate rise. The euro has shot higher to 1.1200, sterling is consolidating around 1.4555, euro-sterling is weak at 0.7690, the aussie is firmer at 0.7187 and the yen is strong at 116.80, almost as strong as before the Bank of Japan pushed interest rates negative.

In emerging market (EM) currencies the yuan is flat at 6.5788, as is the rouble at 76.50, while the other EM currencies we regularly follow are stronger. But, this we think this is more due to dollar weakness than the currencies suggesting we are in a risk-on environment.

The focus on the economic data front will be the US employment report, with 189,000 jobs expected to have been created in January. Japan’s leading indicators dipped to 102% from 103.5 percent, later we get German factory orders, French trade balance and government budget balance, US trade balances and consumer credit – see table below.

The base metals have been undergoing a short-covering rally that has been fuelled by the weaker dollar. The likelihood is that it is just a counter-trend move, driven by short-covering as in recent weeks it did seem as though the metals had tired of falling and if prices were not going to drop further for a while then the shorts may well have decided to cover. The backwardations in all the metals expect nickel supports that view.

With the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday ahead, market liquidity is likely to fall and that could lead to a more volatile market. Whether that means traders take advantage of less liquidity to build on the current firmer tone, or whether prices are sat on, is difficult to say. Given the break lower in the dollar, it may well be that prices push higher, much will then depend on whether producers step in to take advantage of the higher prices to hedge. Given less liquidity, any selling could pull the rug from under the rallies. On balance, we would not be surprised to see some consolidation at lower numbers in the near term.

Gold leads the precious metals, going from strength to strength, and prices are accelerating higher, which suggests some investors missed the boat and are now chasing prices. Prices have now rallied 10.6 percent, which does not seem that much. We expect dips to remain well support. Silver and platinum are following gold prices to some extent, while palladium is struggling to do so. The gold-silver ratio is slightly weaker, the fact it is not falling at a faster pace suggests investors are not yet seeing silver as a cheap proxy for gold.

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