Attempts to manipulate free markets invariably end badly - after all, they are, supposedly, by their very nature, free. Over the past few weeks, the exposure of the Libor-rigging scandal has monopolized the headlines of the financial press. The rather obvious implication being that given almost half the reported inputs that help establish the Libor rate are discarded immediately, Barclays simply CANNOT have manipulated the Libor rate alone. Period. At best this is a cartel, at worst it’s outright fraud on a scale that is completely unprecedented. In Grant Williams' humble opinion, the Libor scandal will mark a fundamental change in the treatment of financial conspiracy theories in the media. The sheer amount of coverage it will undoubtedly receive will signal a shift in attitude towards the exposing of such scandals rather than the blind-eyes that have been regularly turned in recent years. Prime amongst conspiracy theories that may soon be finally proven to be either valid or the figments of overactive imaginations, are those alleged in the gold and silver markets. If the long-stated claims about government-sanctioned, bank-led manipulation of precious metals markets are eventually proven to have any validity whatsoever, the fallout from the Libor scandal will prove to be (to use the words of Jamie Dimon) just another “tempest in a tea pot” as the precious metals are the very underpinnings of the entire global financial system.
Gold may have its worst week in 2012 as it is currently down 3.5% for the week in dollar terms and nearly 3% in euro and pound terms. However, gold is still higher so far in June and the fundamentals suggest we have bottomed or are very close to a market bottom prior to a summer rally.
However, further short term weakness is possible as speculators go to cash and support is at $1,540/oz (see chart above).
The IMF data on central bank demand in January showed that Sweden raised its gold reserves by 18.3 metric tons to 144 tons in January. The data on the International Monetary Fund’s website was gold bullish showing continued demand for gold by central banks internationally. Belarus added 5 tons to reserves, Kazakhstan raised reserves by 7.6 tons and Turkey increased gold reserves by 4.1 tons. They were two quite odd minor reductions in gold reserves. Mexico reduced bullion reserves by 0.1 ton and Tajikistan cut them by 0.3 ton, according to the IMF. However soon after the increase in Sweden’s gold reserves was reported by Bloomberg, Sweden’s central bank gold reserves contradicted the IMF data and denied that they had increased their reserves. Joanna Gerwin, acting head of communication for the Riksbank, told Bloomberg that Swedish gold reserves were unchanged at 125.7 metric tons in January. Officials at the IMF’s office in Paris said nobody in Europe was able to comment. Alistair Thomson, a spokesman for the IMF in Washington, didn’t immediately reply to a voicemail and e-mail from Bloomberg outside normal business hours. Interestingly, the Riksbank sold 36.6 tons under the Central Bank Gold Agreement (CBGA) from 2007-2009. An increase in reserves of 18.3 tonnes is exactly half of the amount sold and would mean that the Riksbank had bought back half of the gold sold from 2007 to 2009.