The price of Gold has been heavily affected by the euro zone crisis this week. In the words of one analyst, “The developments in Italy have perked up the dollar, and that is pushing Gold down.” The long-term outlook for Gold continues to be supported by consistent purchases of Gold by central banks. Although there has been a recent correction in the Gold price, the viewpoint is still positive for the asset. According to James Moore of TheBullionDesk.com, “Precious metals have been hit, as traders and investors continue to lock in profits and bolster cash positions in the run-up to year-end. But, it is worth remembering that despite the recent correction, Gold is still on course to post its 11th consecutive year-on-year gain. And that, given the ongoing debt problems facing many economies, record-low interest rates and the highs in Gold this year, those with a longer-term outlook could view current levels as a buying opportunity.”
Gold demand in China caused the Chinese central bank to step in and ban most Gold exchanges, with the exception of the Shanghai Gold Exchange and the Shanghai Futures Exchange. The People’s Bank of China claims that illegal activity and lax management caused risks to emerge; the bank is now leading a team to clean up problems. Chinese citizens will still be able to buy the Gold they covet, however through limited means. Chinese officials and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda agreed to start directly trading their respective currencies with each other. This has been an ongoing issue between the United States and China, as China views the current currency landscape as too dependent on the U.S. dollar. The short-term effect is relatively limited to helping the current U.S. trade deficit with China; however, the long-term effect could be a devaluation of the U.S. dollar.
The situation in Syria escalated to a point where the Arab League finally intervened this week. The Arab League monitors tasked with observing the situation in Syria said that they saw “nothing frightening” in Homs, the city of 1 million people who has been the epicenter of protests. Some estimates have indicated that one-third of the 5,000 people killed in the Syrian crisis were killed in Homs. Many independent video reports have shown parts of that city that resemble a war zone. The Arab League’s worry has been that their monitors would not be allowed to search during their observation; this initial report only supported those fears. Despite continued observation by the monitors throughout the week, 10 people were reportedly killed Friday morning during protests. Activists hope to meet with the monitors soon to discuss the government crackdown on the protests.
The European Banking Authority set a June 2012 deadline for European banks to raise more than 114 billion euros in fresh capital in order to assure that European banks will have enough cash on hand after the price drop in European sovereign bonds. The Italian debt auction showed no promise after Italy’s announcement of an austerity package and the recent lending done by the European Central Bank (ECB). Spain also benefited as its six-month debt costs were halved to 2.4%. The ECB has flooded euro zone banks with almost 500 billion euros in the hope that it would be used toward sovereign debt. Last week, markets rallied on the news in the hope that banks would buy sovereign debt or loan money to other banks and businesses to stimulate the economy.
The euro, clearly dealing with a significant lack confidence, experienced a rapid and drastic drop this week, falling through an important price point of 1.30. The euro fell relative to the U.S. dollar; Gold and Silver followed their historical trend to move down as the dollar moved up. There are several opinions as to why the euro fell so rapidly. One opinion is that the European Central Bank (ECB) might still decide to roll the printing press. Another opinion is that the weaker euro has to do with the rapid expansion (10%) of the ECB balance sheet. European banks took the money loaned to them by the ECB. Instead of investing the money, they risked less by parking the money in the ECB overnight depository. A third opinion revolves around the Italian bond market, which has been very unstable lately. All three of these scenarios may very well be playing a part, but the increase in the ECB’s balance sheet is probably the current driving factor.
U.S. analysts expected that the struggling housing market was in recovery. However, data released this week indicated that U.S. single-family home prices dropped significantly in October. The focus in the U.S. has been on improving the housing market to strengthen the overall economy. The number of people contracting to buy existing homes in November went up 7.3%, higher than the 1.5% expectation. Currently, mortgage rates are at all-time lows, while housing prices continue to fall. This provides strong stimulation for increased demand. Most economists see an improved housing picture as essential for job growth and a recovering economy.
Weekly jobless claims in the U.S. rose more than expected but the unemployment claims amount remained below 400,000. Initial claims for jobless benefits went up 15,000 to 381,000. Economists polled by Reuters had forecasted 375,000 claims. Although this did break the streak of three weeks of declining claims, most analyst expect a gradual positive trend to continue.
WEEKLY SPOT PRICES
Gold: Spot Gold prices opened this week at $1,595.20. The high was on Tuesday, Dec. 27th at $1609.20, while the low for the week occurred on Thursday, Dec. 15th at $1,523.90. Gold ended the week down $27.20 at $1,568.00. This week, the most popular Gold bullion products were Gold American Eagles, Pamp Suisse Gold Bars, and Gold Maple Leafs.
Silver: Spot Silver prices opened this week at $28.71. Silver reached a high of $29.22 on Tuesday, Dec. 27th, while this week’s low for Silver occurred on Thursday, Dec. 29th at $26.15. Silver ended the week down $0.77 at $27.94. The most popular Silver products on APMEX.com this week were Silver American Eagles, Silver Maple Leafs, Silver Buffalo Rounds and APMEX Silver Bars.
Platinum: Spot Platinum prices opened this week at $1,437.40 and ended the week down $36.20 at $1,401.20. Popular Platinum products this week included, Platinum Bars, Platinum American Eagles, and Platinum American Eagles.
Palladium: Spot Palladium prices opened this week at $665.50 and ended the week down $8.70 at $656.80. Palladium investors preferred Pamp Suisse Palladium Bars and Palladium Canadian Maple Leafs this week.
2012 Gold Australian Kangaroos
The Perth Mint in Australia released the third product in its 2012 Australian Gold and Silver Bullion Coin Program: the Australian Gold Kangaroo. Much like the previous products in this series, the Gold Kangaroos are issued as Australian legal tender guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government of Australia. The 2012 Australian Gold Kangaroos are offered in sizes of 1/10 oz, ¼ oz, ½ oz and 1 oz, as well as the larger 1 kilo size.
The Australian Gold Kangaroos have been offered by the Perth Mint since 1989, with each year featuring a different reverse design. The jeweler to Queen Elizabeth II, Dr. Stuart Devlin, created the 2012 design, which features a single kangaroo with a bush scene and windmill in the background. The kilo coin differs slightly, in that the image is instead a hopping Red Kangaroo. The mint mark “P” appears on the reverse of each coin, along with the inscriptions “Australian Kangaroo,” the date, the size of the coin, and the purity, “9999 Gold.” The obverse of each coin shows the Ian Rank-Broadley likeness of Queen Elizabeth II, as well as the coin’s monetary denomination, 100 Australian dollars.
The Perth Mint originally opened in 1899 as a branch of Britain’s Royal Mint to help supply Gold sovereigns and half sovereigns, which were used as everyday circulating coins throughout the British Empire. In 1970, control of the mint passed from Britain to the Western Australian Government, which still owns it today.
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