Yesterday we described the historic inversion in the Gold Forward Offered Rate, where the 1 and 3 Month GOFO rates sliding into negative territory for the first time since 2008 and 1999 respectively. Today, using the latest LBMA rate update, we observe that the gold backwardation is accelerating, and now the 6 Month GOFO has also joined the complex into sub-zero territory.
This is how we summarized the disturbing observation in the chart above, which as we said yesterday may be one of many things:
- An ETF-induced repricing of paper and physical gold
- Ongoing deliverable concerns and/or shortages involving one (JPM) or more Comex gold members.
- Liquidations in the paper gold market
- A shortage of physical gold for a non-bullion bank market participant
- A major fund unwinding a futures pair trade involving at least one gold leasing leg
- An ongoing bullion bank failure with or without an associated allocated gold bank "run"
- All of the above
The answer for now is unknown. What is known is that something very abnormal, and even historic, is afoot at the nexus of the gold fractional reserve lending market.
Today, the golden backwardation story goes mainstream, with the FT catching up:
The lack of liquidity in the leasing market has pushed gold forward rates, known as “gofo”, into negative territory, meaning that gold for future delivery is trading at a discount to physical market prices – a rare situation that has occurred only a few times in the past 20 years. The last time forwards were negative was in November 2008, when a scramble for physical gold spurred a sharp price rally.
Traders said that investors were alert for the possibility that the current tightness could trigger a squeeze among hedge funds with short positions in gold, potentially driving prices higher. “It has piqued people’s interest”, said one senior precious metals banker. Gold was trading at $1,248.50 a troy ounce on Tuesday, up 5.8 per cent from a three-year low at the end last month.
Bottom line, whatever is causing the dramatic collapse in liquidity and/or collateral, it is certainly not letting up.