Gold Bullion: Useless in Greek Crisis?

Might your gold become useless to you in a Greek-style crisis...?   ANCIENT ATHENS hoarded its silver and gold bullion coins upstairs above the Parthenon, according to one Canadian archaeologist, writes Adrian Ash at BullionVault.   Where are Greece's poor citizens holding their gold and silver today?   Certainly not in Zurich, Singapore or anywhere else via BullionVault. We saw internet traffic from Greece rise 50% during the first half of this year from the Jan-June period of 2014. But new accounts? Zero growth...with just a handful of customers again.   No, the preferred choice for Greeks buying gold has remained bullion coin. Specifically gold Sovereigns, bought from the UK's Royal Mint in Wales...and distributed through the central bank in Athens, the Bank of Greece. At least, that's what Greek law demands.   Incredibly, a rule stated on the central bank's website here has made it the ONLY legal route for gold bullion sales and purchases in Greece since at least 1999, with commercial banks invited to apply for approval if they wished. Word is, small private-sector dealers have long ignored that rule (Google.gr suggests likewise). After all, it flew in the face of the European Union's general directive on free trade in legal goods, even if it fits with the classic Euro-fudge known as the principle of subsidiarity, which says national governments can arrange things domestically pretty much as they like, provided they don't block cross-border trade and capital flows. Y'know, in the way that, say, today's capital controls do.   Prior to this banking shutdown, therefore, residents of Greece could also buy gold coins or small bars from dealers abroad, and get them posted across the border. Because inside the EU's common market, a citizen anywhere can buy legal goods such as gold bullion from any other member state.   That's what the European Union is supposed to be about, at root. The Bank of Greece's stated monopoly on gold bullion inside the Hellenic Republic didn't contradict that core EU aim. But with Greece now stuck in a week-long banking shutdown thanks to the debt crisis, the Bank of Greece has shut its gold operations. Or so Bloomberg reported Monday.   This news didn't feature in last Sunday's capital controls notice (they're always imposed on a Sunday). Nor does it appear on the central bank's gold pages online. True or not however, the broader chaos in Greece already raises the issue of what freedoms a precious metals owner might expect, both legally and in practice, during the kind of crisis you might be buying to guard against today.   Bloomberg headlined its story "Bank of Greece stops gold sales". But the central bank also sets itself out as the only legal BUYER of bullion in Greece, too. If the gold window is closed, that also means the Bank has stopped buying.   This is more important, because in a banking shutdown...after 5 years of economic collapse...people will be rushing to raise cash, not buy gold. Losing the key insitutional dealer only would only worsen liquidity, and prices, for would-be sellers. Amid the kind of confusion now hitting Greece, gold held in-country risks becoming useless to its owners.   Each household's shortage of Euros worsens every time they spend money. So who will buy gold from you for Euros? No doubt there's a thriving black market, however. Gold always finds a way, as India's attempts to block legal imports have proved time and again. Greece only made giving till receipts mandatory for all businesses in 2012. Foreign-issued credit cards are apparently helping some people get round Greece's new capital controls today. And in gold, acting legally under EU rules always made you a criminal anyway under the Bank of Greece's more controversial claim to a monopoly. The lines have long been blurred.   Now contrast that hassle, risk and lack of willing buyers with the safety, instant pricing and deep liquidity available to that handful of Greek citizens who bought and now hold bullion outside the country. BullionVault users owning gold in Switzerland or Singapore, for instance, can sit it out, and maintain some wealth away from Greece's collapse for when the crisis finally passes. Or they can sell a little...and receive funds back to their Greek bank...ready to spend from their allotted €60 per day ATM withdrawal (if they can find a machine with any cash). Because there are no blocks on receiving funds from abroad, of course.   If you're right to buy gold against a Greek-style crisis, in short, then you'd be right to own it in a safe, secure jurisdiction abroad. This is rule No.1 on the Gold Buyer's Checklist.   And if things get really bad? No amount of gold, or any other asset, can guarantee you escape any and all kinds of  crisis. But owning physical bullion outside your own borders means you have a high-value asset...instantly priced, deeply liquid and sellable for local currency...ready and waiting should you and your family need to get out. And be able to.   Everyone hopes it won't come to that. Everyone always hopes that it won't.


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Gold Prices Hit 15-Week Low 'Despite' Greek Crisis & Weak US Jobs Data, 'Bull Market Coming' Says BAML

GOLD PRICES fell to 15-week lows in London trade Thursday, briefly slipping near $1160 per ounce as world stock markets dropped, the Greek government was challenged over the validity of this coming weekend's 'austerity' referendum, and new data showed the US jobs market slowing in June.   Major government bond prices fell outside the US and UK, nudging 10-year German Bund yields up to 0.84% – a 7-month high when first reach in June.   Gold prices fell against the Dollar for the 8th session in nine, but recovered against the volatile Euro to remain "stuck to €1050 like a limpet" according to ICBC Standard Bank's trading desk in London.   "Physical buying [from Asian wholesalers] is around, but very light given summer holidays and Ramadan."   The US economy added only 223,000 jobs in June, the Labor Department said Thursday, missing analysts' consensus forecasts for the third time this year.   Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis meantime said he will quit the "radical left" Syriza government if Greek voters don't back his demands for foreign creditor nations to accept a debt restructuring in Sunday's referendum – itself called "unconstitutional" and "unclear" by the Athens Bar Association of lawyers today.   Varoufakis says Euro membership is not up for discussion, but "The question of the referendum is whether they want to be with the Euro," said European Central Bank member Josef Bonnici, head of Malta's central bank.   Blaming Syriza for the current crisis, Greece needs "comprehensive" debt relief from its Eurozone partners, fellow creditor the International Monetary Fund said today, calling for maturities to be doubled from 20 to 40 years with €60bn in new funds required over the next 3 years.   "[Syriza's prime minister] Tsipras has turned this country into North Korea," the Wall Street Journal quotes one 83-year-old lining up to try and withdraw cash from an ATM in Athens.   "I can't believe at this age I have to line up to get rationed."   "Despite the prevailing uncertainties on the future of Greece and its impact for the Eurozone," says Germany's Commerzbank in a note, "gold still continues its downward trend."   "Participants [are] keen to sell the relatively short-lived rallies," says Swiss refiner MKS's trading team.   "Interest rate expectations in the US will continue to weigh on the metals."   "We are on the cusp of a gold bull market," reckons a new note from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, forecasting a rise to $1300 per year in 2016.   "But there is no immediate trigger for prices to rise...Ongoing uncertainty emanating from Greece [means] rising risk aversion is bullish, [but] this may be offset by a stronger Dollar."


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India cuts Gold, Silver import tariff value

For last fortnight, the tariff value of gold was fixed at $385 per 10 grams and silver at $519 per kg.


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Gold Bullion 'Disappointing', 'Unaffected' by Greek Crisis as Athens 'Caves In', Dollar Rises on US Jobs Data

GOLD BULLION slipped in London trade Wednesday, dipping near 4-week lows as the Dollar rose following strong US jobs data and European stock markets rallied amid fresh "concessions" by Athens in seeking a new bail-out program from its Eurozone and IMF creditors.   The June report from private-sector payrolls service ADP said the US economy added 237,000 jobs last month – the second highest figure this year, and 9% ahead of the average analyst's forecasts.   "This did not provide further clarity," said German finance minister Schaeuble meantime, refuting a leaked letter from Greek prime minister Tsipras accepting the major terms of a bail-out offer now expired, but still being put to a referendum this weekend.   "All people in Greece must realise this risk," said Slovakia's finance minister Kazimir separately, that a 'no' vote on Sunday means Greek banks – closed this week as part of emergency capital controls – will never re-open using the Euro currency.   "Tsipras seems to have caved in," said BBC economics editor Robert Peston.   "Tsipras backs down," said the Financial Times, which published the leaked letter.   The Dollar on Wednesday pushed the Euro beneath $1.11 – a 13-year low when first reached this March – following the ADP jobs report.   Silver dipped near 3.5-month lows below $15.60 per ounce, after closing June at the lowest monthly finish in Dollar terms since August 2009.   Wholesale gold bullion prices in London held around $1170 per ounce, a four-year low when first reached last October.   "Price action is disappointing," says one Asian bullion desk in a note.   "Gold might be expected to remain in a narrow range this week, having absorbed a lot of news already."   The Greek crisis is "in unchartered territory," says Australian bank ANZ's commodity strategist Victor Thianpiruiyam. But financial markets seem "a little more confident with the situation now," he's quoted by CNBC, wth "reassurances from Eurozone officials that the contagion risk from Greece will be relatively small, if any at all."   "The things going on in Greece," says US analyst and fund manager at Van Eck Global Joe Foster, "aren't affecting the US and they may not even affect Europe.   "Gold really responds to financial stress or economic stress in the US more than anything," said Mr Foster.   Share prices in Shanghai meantime closed Wednesday more than 5% lower, extending their drop over the last two weeks to more than one-fifth as reports said 'margin trading' using credit from stock brokerages continues to be unwound.


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US Mint Gold, Silver coin sales rise in June

The US Mint's American Eagle silver coin sales reached 4.84 million ounces in June, also the highest since January and more than doubled from 2.02 million ounces a month earlier.


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Gold Investing 'Positive' on Greek Capital Controls, China Rate Cut as Stock Markets Sink

GOLD INVESTING prices erased an earlier 1.1% spike against the Dollar and gave back a 2.8% jump against the Euro in London on Monday, flat-lining for the day as a whole as world stock markets sank following the weekend's news of capital controls and emergency bank holidays in Greece.   "Greece unilaterally broke off talks," said European Commission president Juncker in a press conference, claiming that "We don't deserve the criticism being levelled at us. I don't, nor does [Eurogroup president] Dijsselbloem."   After Greek prime minister Tsipras called for a snap referendum next weekend to decide "in or out" on the Euro currency, capital controls restricting bank withdrawals and transfers from Greece were imposed Sunday after the European Central Bank halted new emergency lending to the stricken state's commercial lenders.   "Greek people should know the truth," said Juncker. "The door is still open. This is not the end of the process."   "Risk off sentiment hit the market this morning following the news," says a note from Swiss refining and finance group MKS, "sending gold higher on the open."   With the Euro sinking over 1% at the start of Asian FX trading, gold investing prices leapt €30 per ounce to a 4-week high of €1082, only to ease back as the single currency recovered.   Shanghai equities meantime sank 3.5% for the day, extending the last two weeks' losses to more than one-fifth despite a cut to China's key interest rates and easier lending rules for commercial banks in the world's second-largest economy.   Crude oil fell 1.7% as European stock markets lost over 3%, German Bund yields retreated to 1-month lows, and Spanish and Italian government debt fell in price.   Interest-rate futures slashed the forecast odds of the US Federal Reserve making its first hike to Dollar borrowing costs in a decade this September from 45% on Friday to just 25% this morning.   "A dovish Fed and increased threat of Greek default will support gold," reckons a new report from French investment and London bullion bank Societe Generale.   "But weak investing and jewellery demand will limit price upside."   On the contrary, says a note from SocGen's fellow London market maker Barclays Capital, "The lower price environment has been viewed as a buying opportunity in gold, which bodes well," said in a note today.   New data from US regulator the CFTC last week showed speculative traders in Comex gold futures and options raising their bullish bets whilst also cutting their bearish bets as a group for only the 7th time in 25 weeks so far in 2015.


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Gold Dips to $1170 Despite China Stock Plunge, Euro Prices 'Stuck to €1050' as Greece's Latest 'False Deadline' Looms

GOLD PRICES fell near 3-week Dollar lows Friday as the US currency rose following the strongest reading of consumer sentiment in 11 years on the Reuters/Michigan survey.   China's main stock market meantime closed 7.4% down on the day, and some 18% down from a fortnight ago, as more brokerage houses tightened their margin trading rules.   Separate data showed French and Italian consumer confidence also rising, but private-sector loans across the 19-nation Eurozone grew only 0.5% per year in May, the European Central Bank said, despite 5% growth in the currency union's broad money supply driven by the ECB's new QE bond-buying program.   Erasing the last two weeks' of gains, Dollar gold prices briefly traded below $1170 per ounce in London on Friday –  a 4.5-year low when first hit last October.   "Euro gold is like a rock," noted one London bullion desk today, "stuck to €1050 for over 3 week now!"   Ahead of Saturday's latest emergency meeting of Eurozone leaders to discuss the Greek debt crisis, Athens today rejected a 5-month extension of the existing terms of the current €242 billion bail-out.   With Athens due to repay €1.6 billion of bail-out loans to the International Monetary Fund next Tuesday, "The European Union founding principles were democracy, solidarity, equality and mutual respect...not blackmail and ultimatum," said Greek prime minister Tsipras today.   "It is not political blackmail," countered European Council president Donald Tusk. "We are very close to the day when the game is over. This is fact."   "Many [such] 'deadlines' have passed without agreement," note analysts at US investment bank J.P.Morgan, and "there is again a sense in which this 'deadline' is artificial."   Back in the gold market, "Demand was muted during Asian trade," says Swiss refining group MKS's trading team, "as participants looked to position themselves ahead of the final round of debt negotiations between Greece and European creditors on Saturday."   But in terms of transactions, three days of strong turnover in the Shanghai Gold Exchange's domestic kilobar contract were followed by record-high volume on Friday, with its premium over comparable London quotes doubling from yesterday to $2.60 per ounce.   "More people getting involved," says one London bullion bank, adding that exchange-traded trust-fund vehicles backed by gold saw strong inflows on Thursday – "a clear sign that investors are concerned about major macro risks, i.e. Greece, Europe, China."   Tonight's positioning data from US regulator the CFTC, in contrast, will likely give analysts "only little direction" from the stance of leveraged futures and options speculators, says another major bullion bank's sales desk, because "clearly the Comex market in New York has been deserted by investors" with activity slipping.   The unleveraged SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEArca:GLD) yesterday added more metal than any day since early February to back the value of its shares, with the ETF's total holdings growing by 1.5% from a week ago to reach 713 tonnes – the largest level since the start of this month saw a complete reversal of 2015's earlier 9% growth.   iShares Silver Trust (NYSEArca:SLV) also added metal this week, swelling to the largest size by weight since late April at 10,236 tonnes.   By value, however, the SLV's asset-under-management held near a 2-week low of $5.2 billion as the trust fund's growing holding was offset by falling prices.


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China's Gold Market Targets 'Speedy Growth', Cross-Listing with Comex, LBMA Forum Told

GOLD MARKET prices in wholesale London trade slipped near yesterday's 2-week lows on Thursday, edging down after a quiet session in China despite fresh wrangling in Europe over Greece's worsening debt crisis.   Administered for the London Bullion Market Association, Thursday morning's Gold Price benchmark was found at $1174.60 per ounce – the lowest AM price since 8 June – on moderate buying and selling demand.   Turnover in the Shanghai Gold Exchange's kilobar contract, in contrast, held above 21 tonnes for the 3rd day running as prices eased towards a $1 premium over London quotes.   Dollar gold prices then slipped to $1172 per ounce as Asian stock markets closed sharply lower, but Eurozone equities held flat amid a flurry of deadlines set by Athens' creditors ahead of Greece's €1.6 billion repayment to the IMF, due next Tuesday.    "We will be introducing a Yuan-denominated fix at the right moment, we hope by the end of the year," said Shen Gang, vice president of the SGE, at the LBMA Bullion Market Forum in Shanghai today.   The SGE is also in talks with US derivatives exchange the CME about cross-listing each other's contracts, Shen was quoted by Bloomberg.   In contrast, London's wholesale gold market – center of the world's physical trade for more than 200 years – shows no appetite for moving onto exchange-traded contracts, Reuters quotes LBMA chief executive Ruth Crowell, speaking Wednesday ahead of the trade association's now annual forum, held jointly this year with the SGE at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Pudong, Shanghai.   "Our next step," says Crowell following a market review by consultants Ernst & Young, will "certainly [be] trade reporting" of volumes in London's wholesale market, currently aggregated only through the monthly clearing statistics shared by London's biggest market-making member banks.   But "the big message" given by market participants to the EY review is that arranging a central counterparty clearing house (CCP) – a necessary step for any exchange-traded market – "just adds to the cost of the existing model," Crowell added.   "At the moment, there is no demand for a central counterparty."   Less than a week after state-owned Bank of China became the first Chinese institution to join the LBMA Gold Price benchmark as a direct participant, meantime, "ICBC is very keen on participating," said Zhou Ming, general manager for precious metals at the world's largest bank, at the LBMA/SGE forum in Shanghai today.   With the gold market hub of Shanghai now receiving bullion imports directly, new data from Beijing today showed a sharp rise in net imports of gold bullion to mainland China in May, up 35% from April to almost 71 tonnes.   The first year-on-year rise since November, last month's growth still leaves net imports from Hong Kong so far in 2015 some 17% behind the first 5 months of 2014.   Also speaking at the LBMA/SGE forum, the People's Bank of China will continue to support "speedy and healthy growth" in China's gold market, as well as "internationalization", said central bank deputy governor Pan Gongsheng.


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Gold Prices 'Take a Beating' from US GDP Data as Greek Debt Agreement Unravels, Chinese Traders Jump on Sub-$1200 Offers

GOLD PRICES fell hard against a rising Dollar in London trade Wednesday, but held dead-flat for Euro traders as a resolution to the latest Greek debt crisis was thrown into doubt.   The US currency rose on the forex market after new data showed the US economy shrinking only 0.2% per year in the first quarter, markedly less than first estimated.   Europe's single currency meantime fell – and Eurozone stock markets sank – after Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras said some of Athens' creditor nations had rejected the austerity reforms proposed to much fanfare on Monday.   With Greek bond prices slipping, and Germany's Dax stock index turning an earlier 0.5% gain into a near-1% loss, Tsipras was due to fly back to Brussels on Wednesday for fresh talks.   "Event risk remains high," says the Hong Kong team at Japanese trading house Mitsui Global Precious Metals.   Greece's concessions at Monday's Eurogroup meeting "result[ed] in a swift drop for gold through intra-day supports," they add.   "Gold has resumed its downtrend," agrees the trading desk at London market makers Societe Generale, "on the back of renewed optimism for a Greek resolution.   "Equities cheered a possible agreement and gold took the beating."   But with that solution on Greece now uncertain – and equities retreating sharply –"Gold has traded in a very narrow range, with the market waiting to see what happens," says China-owned ICBC Standard Bank.   "There is still a high degree of uncertainty with participants instead seeming happy to sit on the side-lines."   Over in Asia, and "with China returning from their holiday [Tuesday]," notes the trading desk at Swiss refining and finance group MKS, "they had last seen the metal trade above a $1200 spot price.   "[So] traders were not disappointed with heavy volumes going through" on the Shanghai Gold Exchange, MKS says, with Wednesday's SGE data showing further growth in turnover again.   Premiums on gold bullion delivered inside Shanghai's free-trade zone and dealt via the SGE's international bourse rose to $2.50 per ounce over London quotes – the top end of the last month's range.   One day before global trade body the London Bullion Market Association holds its annual Asian forum in Shanghai, Reuters on Wednesday quoted Chinese 'sources' saying that Beijing is about to approve a Yuan-denominated price benchmark – akin to London's 100-year old Gold Fix, now set in Dollars via the legally-regulated LBMA Gold Price auction.   China's Zijin Mining – the world's No.1 gold miner by market cap, and the largest miner in what has been the world's No.1 gold-mining nation since 2007 – said yesterday it is extending the $1 billion of acquisitions made over the last 12 months into a 10-year plan.   New UK data meantime showed mortgage approvals hitting a 10-month high in May, with the Pound rising sharply on the FX market, squashing the gold price for Sterling investors near fresh 7-month lows beneath £744 per ounce.


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