12.27.11 Weekly Recap


Gold prices have been affected by the ongoing European debt issues.  The precious metal is tied closely to the fate of both the dollar and the euro. Moves by the two currencies this week have been reflected in the price of Gold.  The recent trend for Gold has been to track the euro and move opposite the dollar.  Although there has been a correction in Gold prices over the past few months, most experts are unfazed and see the precious metal rising again in 2012. Jeffery Wright, a senior research analyst with Global Hunter Securities, said that Gold prices of $2,000 are likely if Washington lawmakers continue to be at odds on how to address fiscal problems in the U.S.  Wright also said, “Once we get back into those discussions, there will be further pressure on the U.S. dollar and a refocusing on Gold as a safe-haven asset.”

Leo Larkin, a metals and mining analyst with S&P Capital IQ, said, “Gold has been going up without interruption for 10 years.” Larkin said the current dip in prices is “totally normal” and stated that he expects this upward trend to continue in 2012. Over the past 10 years, Gold has experienced an average rise of 17% annually.  The demand for the metal continues to surge, and according to commodities strategist Sabine Schels, “The negative outlook for sovereign debt coupled with easy monetary conditions in the eurozone, the U.S. and Japan, meant Gold would retain its safe-haven status while still offering comparatively strong returns. Gold will also benefit from a continued need for central banks in emerging markets to diversify their holdings.”

The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was at the forefront of the news.  Il’s death only adds to the list of uncertainties affecting the world economy; there is concern about the effects his passing will have on North Korea’s economy and its relationship with South Korea.  Stock markets slipped over comments made by European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi regarding the ECB not being able to step in to buy bonds based on the founding treaty of the eurozone. Other news causing concern was England’s refusal to participate in an increase of the IMF’s resources to help the debt crisis.  There are still plenty of hurdles and difficulties within the eurozone, including Finland’s resistance to how the European Stability Mechanism is run, which could cause issues as early as July 2012. Fitch Ratings stated that it is too late for a comprehensive solution to be reached in Europe’s debt crisis.

The business sentiment in Germany rose sharply in December, which went against expectations that such sentiment would decline. This was looked on as a good sign for the eurozone, as Germany is often considered the workhorse of the European economy. As the markets stabilized, investors wondered what would happen as events continued to unfold in North Korea. Regional tensions were on high alert, even as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. is ready to help the North Korean people create lasting peace and security on the Korean peninsula. Also, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on extending the payroll tax cut.  Although an agreement to extend the tax cut and unemployment benefits had previously passed in the Senate, congressional Republicans, unhappy that requested cuts to President Barack Obama’s health care law and changes to the unemployment insurance system were removed from the bill passed in the Senate, rejected the proposed two-month extension.

The European Central Bank (ECB) announced that its lending program would be giving eurozone banks a total of 489 billion euros to meet liquidity needs.  The announcement jump-started the markets, as the expectation was that those banks would use some of the loaned money to buy sovereign debt. However, Europe’s initial rush of excitement faded quickly after it was realized that would not be the case.  The eurozone news pulled all major indexes down, although by the end of the day Gold and Silver had climbed back near their Wednesday morning levels.  In the U.S., Republicans and Democrats reprised their roles in a drama similar to the debt ceiling issue earlier in the year, with both sides blaming each other for halting the extension of the payroll tax cut.  Also on Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors announced that existing home sales increased by 4% in November. However, those results were muddied after the association revised its calculations for 2010, saying the housing crash was, in fact, about 14% worse than previously thought.

Thursday began with both U.S. stock futures and the U.S. dollar rising in response to the release of the weekly jobless claims report. The report showed that 4,000 fewer people filed for unemployment benefits the week before. Third quarter Gross Domestic Product numbers for the U.S. reflected a revision downward of 0.2%.  The numbers also indicated that consumer spending had been weaker than originally reported. Fitch Ratings placed the U.S. on warning again  regarding its AAA credit rating, though it said a decision likely wouldn’t come until 2013. Also on Thursday, Republican and Democrat lawmakers in Congress continued their fight over the payroll tax cut extension.

The debt issues in Europe continued to hobble efforts for economic recovery, and there were talks of a ‘Quantitative Easing’-like effort within the European Union. Such a program, which would involve the European Central Bank (ECB) stepping up and buying debt, goes against the principle set forth for the ECB and is a touchy subject with ECB President Mario Draghi, who has indicated that he feels instilling trust in Europe should be the priority. Draghi said in an interview, “We won’t achieve that (trust) by destroying the credibility of the ECB.” The International Monetary Fund showed no signs of stepping in with any sort of financing plan for European debt, either. Former ECB board member Juergen Stark said, “Practically, I don’t see any countries other than eurozone states that want access to the money. It is an attempt to circumvent the ban on direct monetary financing in Europe.”  The domestic economic news on Friday was that U.S. manufactured goods rose quite a bit in November, based on aircraft demand. However, business spending decreased in an indication that investing might be starting to wane.  In other U.S. news, after a week of fighting between Republicans and Democrats, Congress finally passed a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut.

Each year around this time, we begin to see stock and Gold price predictions for the coming year. Last year, most of the predictions for stocks were bullish, and Gold predictions were more modest. But there was no way to predict the Arab Spring, the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, the continued lack of jobs or the severity of the European debt crisis. In the end, it has been a poor year for stocks and another robust year for Gold, despite the recent price decline. It makes one wonder what the unexpected (Black Swan) events might be in 2012. According to an article by Patti Domm, CNBC news editor, there are five geopolitical risks we need to watch for in 2012:

  • The conflict with Iran. Tensions already are escalating as Western countries seek to push sanctions on Iran for its nuclear weapons program.
  • North Korea. Who is this new 28-year-old leader? There is very little known about Kim Jong Un, who leads a secretive and closed country that possesses nuclear weapons.
  • Iraq’s civil war. The exit of U.S. forces leaves behind an unstable situation that creates even more uncertainty amid the world’s major oil supplies.
  • Deteriorating Pakistani-U.S. relationship. The U.S. relies on Pakistan to assist in the ongoing war on terrorism. However, the U.S. also needs India as an ally, which creates quite a balancing act.
  • Russian elections. There could be a shift of power in Russia, and this brings added uncertainty. Russia still carries economic clout and remains the world’s largest oil producer.

WEEKLY SPOT PRICES

Gold: Spot Gold prices opened this week at $1,596.30. The high was on Wednesday, Dec. 21st at $1643.70, while the low for the week occurred on Monday, Dec. 19th at $1,585.50. Gold ended the week up $13.40 at $1,609.70. This week, the most popular Gold bullion products were 2011 Gold American Eagles, 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Gold Bars, and 2011 1 oz. Gold Maple Leafs.

Silver: Spot Silver prices opened this week at $28.85. Silver reached a high of $30.21 on Wednesday, Dec. 21st, while this week’s low for Silver occurred on Tuesday, Dec. 20th at $28.70. Silver ended the week up $0.32 at $29.17. The most popular Silver products on APMEX.com this week were 2011 Silver American Eagles, 2011 Silver Maple Leafs, 1 oz. Silver Buffalo Rounds and 10 oz. APMEX Silver Bars.

Platinum: Spot Platinum prices opened this week at $1,411.10 and ended the week up $21.10 at $1432.20. Popular Platinum products this week included, 1 oz. Platinum Bars, 1/10 oz. Platinum American Eagles, and 1 oz. Platinum American Eagles.

Palladium: Spot Palladium prices opened this week at $617.10 and ended the week up $43.40 at $6660.50. Palladium investors preferred 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Palladium Bars and Palladium Canadian Maple Leafs this week at APMEX.com.

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