Russian Sanctions Could See Gold Prices ‘Explode’
Today’s AM fix was USD 1,302.00, EUR 938.45 and GBP 772.79 per ounce.
Friday’s AM fix was USD 1,294.25, EUR 934.88 and GBP 769.38 per ounce.
Gold climbed $9.80 or 0.76% on Friday to $1,302.70/oz. Silver rose $0.04 or 0.2% to $19.71/oz.
Gold and silver finished up for the week - up 0.60% and 0.41% respectively.
Gold eked out small gains in European trading, as growing tensions in Ukraine are contributing to higher prices. On Thursday prices dropped to $1,268.40 per ounce – the lowest since early February, before rallying due to tensions over Ukraine. In the last 3 sessions, gold bullion has rallied nearly 2%, as the crisis in Eastern Europe bolsters safe haven demand.
Gold in U.S. Dollars, 2 Years - (Thomson Reuters)
Today, geopolitical tensions have deepened with President Obama saying that the United States will impose additional sanctions on Russia targeting individuals and companies.
The move is expected to be followed by separate sanctions from the European Union. Washington said at the weekend the new sanctions would target individuals and companies close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as new restrictions on high-tech exports to Russia's defence industry.
The geopolitical risks may overshadow a number of important reports on the U.S. economy this week.
The conflict reached a new level over the weekend, when a group of international observers from the Vienna-based Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were abducted by pro-Russian groups. The separatists later released one of the captives due to a medical condition requiring treatment, but also said they had no intention of freeing the others. Negotiations for the release of the observers are underway, Russia saying it will help as much as possible with the situation.
Western diplomats will hold high level talks today, with the goal of agreeing further and tougher sanctions against Moscow. The BBC reported that, according to sources familiar with developments, this round of asset freezes and travel bans may target individuals at the top of Russia’s energy industry. There is even speculation that Putin himself and his considerable net worth may be targeted.
Russia will likely react to these sanctions and retaliate. This could come in the form of financial, economic or currency warfare.
One unappreciated risk is that state sanctioned Russian hackers may target U.S. exchanges and financial infrastructure. Bloomberg reports that “U.S. officials and security specialists are warning that Russian hackers may respond to new sanctions by attacking the computer networks of U.S. banks and other companies.”
Cybersecurity specialists consider Russian hackers among the world’s best at infiltrating networks and say evidence exists that they already have inserted malicious software on computers in the U.S.
There are concerns that small numbers of computer experts could have the ability “to cripple the U.S. economy in a few days.”
Veteran gold analyst, George Gero, who is the precious metals analyst at RBC is not a man for hyperbole or overstatement. Indeed, he has been quite bearish on gold in recent years. However, he believes that Ukraine and the deepening crisis, could have a “massively bullish impact on gold prices.”
He told CNBC the following:
"One of the largest suppliers of gold, and of course platinum, is Russia and if they're going to be involved in sanctions, and more problems with Ukraine, and deliveries are curtailed—and there is already a problem in South Africa between the miners of platinum, palladium and the mining companies. All of that could somehow explode on the upside and curtail deliveries, meaning higher prices."
Russia is the fourth-largest producer of gold, outputting 7% of the world's total supply according to the British Geological Survey. Were Russia to retaliate by banning the exports of all precious metals and by selling some of their large foreign exchange reserves and diversifying into gold, silver, platinum and palladium, it would likely lead to migh higher prices for all precious metals.
There is also the strong possibility of increased safe haven demand. This is likely to materialise should economic or even military conflict materialise.
HSBC point out that geopolitical incidents and a short term increase in geopolitical tensions tend to see gold prices rise, prior to the fleeting impact abating and prices falling again.
However, the risk of conflict between Russia and the U.S. and EU is more than a short term risk. It is one of the greatest geopolitical challenges since the end of the Cold War. Therefore, it is likely to have a more material impact on gold prices.
The concept of MAD or mutually assured destruction was what prevented war between the superpowers during the Cold War. Today, there appears to be a lack of awareness regarding the risk of mutually assured economic destruction.
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