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Weekly Market Recap – February 3, 2012

Now that figures for January have come in, it’s clear that Gold kicked off the new year with a fresh start and a confident outlook. This past month was the strongest January for Gold in more than 30 years. In addition, prices for the precious metal rose more than 11% in January, the largest gain since August 2011. In a note this week, Ross Norman, chief executive of Sharps Pixley, wrote, “With Gold starting 2012 at a cracking pace … Gold may be poised to set fresh highs this year but earlier than many — ourselves included — would have expected.”  Gold still is viewed as directly tied to what is going on in Europe, and according to a note sent to investors this week by Commerzbank analysts, “Concerns about Greece and Portugal are keeping demand for Gold high and supporting the price. … The sovereign debt crisis will thus continue to preoccupy the markets for some considerable time yet and should support the Gold price.”

During a summit attended by leaders from 27 European Union (EU) states this week, a deal was reached on a permanent rescue fund for the eurozone, with 25 of the 27 European leaders present agreeing to back the German-inspired pact for budgetary discipline. The agreement on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) – which will be worth about $500 billion euros and will go into effect a full year ahead of the previous timeframe of 2013 – is already being criticized internationally as too small to truly handle the debt exposure. Also coming out of the summit, the countries involved in the agreement have signed up for a tighter fiscal union in which the European Court of Justice had the power to fine countries that don’t stick to the budget deficits set by the EU.

There is fear that Portugal will be next in line to receive a bailout once Greece’s debt issues have been resolved. Edward Hugh, an economist in Barcelona, said, “It’s most likely that Portugal will say that it wants one of those, too.” According to Hugh, Portugal “…literally has nothing further to lose, except some of its debt burden.” Lisbon, Portugal’s largest city, is required to repay 9 billion euros of debt in September 2013.

There was positive news out of Germany this week, where unemployment levels reached a 20-year low in January. Germany’s economic expansion has helped soften the blow from the eurozone’s broader weakness. However, eurozone unemployment as a whole increased to 10.4%, the highest rate in the history of the EU.

Here in the U.S., the Case-Shiller report released this week showed that housing prices slid by 1.3% in November, with a 3.7% slide year-on-year. While the housing market seems to be improving, most homeowners are not seeing any part of that with the sliding prices, which have dropped to mid-2003 levels. Precious metals added to gains on the news. Also this week, private research group The Conference Board revealed that its Consumer Confidence Index fell from 64.8 to 61.1 in December, lower than the forecast of 68 that economists had anticipated. According to the Conference Board, although consumers were more positive about jobs, they were not as optimistic about their income prospects. The release of the latest unemployment figures on Friday showed that 243,000 new jobs were added in January, which was more than the 121,000 analysts had estimated.

This week, Christopher Wolfe of Fitch Ratings said that U.S. banks will face a continuing trend of erosion or core earnings this year if they do not offset revenue pressures by finding new ways to cut costs. President Barack Obama urged Congress this week to follow his plan to give homeowners a better chance at refinancing with historically low interest rates. The estimated cost of the President’s program is between $5 billion and $10 billion, which has Republicans already saying they will not support it. Federal Reserve President Ben Bernanke delivered a speech to Congress on Thursday of this week in which he warned about the risk to the U.S. of a sudden fiscal crisis and expressed his concerns about U.S. economic growth. Mr. Bernanke also defended Fed policy against harsh criticism that recent Fed decisions risked igniting inflation, saying that the decisions were necessary in an economy that is still struggling and that is vulnerable to shocks. Precious metals prices showed solid gains in response to Bernanke’s speech.

Pressure from the U.N mounted this week on Syria’s president. Arab leaders have urged the U.N. Security Council to help the Syrian people, claiming that Syria has failed to make reforms and that government forces continue to use deadly force against protesters. The uprising in Syria has endured for 10 months, and Western and Arab diplomats are calling for Assad to step down. Also in the Middle East, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned those who are enforcing an oil embargo against Iran, saying, “Sanctions will not have any impact on our determination to continue our nuclear course. In response to threats of oil embargo and war, we have our own threats to impose at the right time.”  The comments are expected to continue driving up oil prices. Gold traditionally has a positive correlation with oil, and like oil, geopolitical tension is one of the major driving factors for the price of Gold.

According to banking and financial services group UBS, Gold demand in India is significantly above average this year. India has been the largest Gold consumer in the world in recent years. UBS added that new investors are coming into the Gold market for the first time in three months, thanks largely in part to the potential for quantitative easing. UBS analyst Edel Tully said that such easing could give Gold “explosive ingredients” in 2012. In China, Gold buying set records during the week-long Dragon Lunar New Year holiday. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce released numbers showing that sales of Gold, Silver, and jewelry rose by 57.6% at Caibai, one of Beijing’s largest gold dealers. “To most Chinese nowadays, gold is more convenient to cash in than other investment instruments,” said Guan Qiang of Caibai.

WEEKLY SPOT PRICES

Gold: Spot Gold prices opened this week at $ 1,734.20. The high was on Friday, February, 3rd  at $ 1,765.90, while the low for the week occurred on Monday,  January 30th $ 1718.80. Gold ended the week down $7.20 at $1,727.00. 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 $33.52. Silver reached a high of $34.39  on Friday, February, 3rd , while this week’s low for Silver occurred Monday,  January 30th at $33.04. Silver ended the week up $0.18 at $33.70. 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 $1614.30 and ended the week up $10.50 at $1,624.80. 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 $688.20 and ended the week up $19.20 at $707.40. Palladium investors preferred 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Palladium Bars and Palladium Canadian Maple Leafs this week at APMEX.com.

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1.27.12 Weekly Recap

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photo credit: Reuters/ Mike Segar

Gold crossed over the $1700 mark today on news of more stimulus measures by the Federal Reserve.  This news pushed the dollar down; Gold played its usual inverse position by jumping up several days in a row.

Precious metals started the week with a climb that was based on European news.  Negotiations between Greece and private debt holders are still under way. Sources close to the situation report a deal is close and private bondholders stand to take a loss of between 65 to 70 percent.

The Federal Reserve officially announced that the interest rates will not be raised until at least 2014.  The Fed believes that the unemployment rate still needs to be controlled. It anticipates that inflation will remain consistent with firm prices. The Federal Reserve’s actions indicate that they are concerned about a struggling economy, and unfortunately, this depresses the value of the dollar which had been rising compared to the euro. Federal Reserve observers are split on whether there will be another round of quantitative easing. According to the CNBC survey in January, about half of the respondents believe there will be a QE3, while 44 percent say no. These same respondents are optimistic on the economy, as long as the European crisis does not turn for the worse and create a significant global event.

The International Monetary Fund cut its global forecast of 2012 growth from 4% to 3.3%, and already is dropping its projected growth forecast for 2013 from 4.5% to 3.9%. Those forecasts are still not set; they are dependent on the efforts of the 17-country euro zone coming together to fight financial turmoil. The IMF has also called on the European Central Bank and other countries to support the euro zone with additional funding. In an update, the IMF said, “The near-term outlook has noticeably deteriorated … The global recovery is threatened by intensifying strains in the euro area and frailties elsewhere.”

WEEKLY SPOT PRICES

Gold: Spot Gold prices opened this week at $1,678.40. The high was on Friday, 27th at $1,738.20, while the low for the week occurred on Wednesday, Jan. 25th, $1,649.20. Gold ended the week up $60.50 at $1,738.90. This week, the most popular Gold bullion products were 2012 Gold American Eagles, 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Gold Bars, and 2012 1 oz. Gold Maple Leafs.

Silver: Spot Silver prices opened this week at $32.37. Silver reached a high of $33.94 on Friday, Jan. 27th, while this week’s low for Silver occurred on Wednesday, Jan. 25th at $31.53. Silver ended the week up $1.67 at $34.04 The most popular Silver products on APMEX.com this week were 2012 Silver American Eagles, 2012 Silver Maple Leafs, 1 oz. Silver Buffalo Rounds and 10 oz. APMEX Silver Bars.

Platinum: Spot Platinum prices opened this week at $1,565.00 and ended the week up $60.80 at $1625.80. 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 $687.80 and ended the week up $3.60 at $691.40. Palladium investors preferred 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Palladium Bars and Palladium Canadian Maple Leafs this week at APMEX.com.

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The unusual Silver bullion coin, the Silver Kookaburra, was released in 1990 by the Perth Mint of Australia. These beautiful coins celebrate the interesting bird native to Australia. Due to the variety of designs and privy marks available on the Silver Kookaburra coins, these are very popular among collectors who buy Silver coins.

Each 1 oz. Australian Silver Kookaburra contains .999-fine Silver and includes proof-like frosting in the central design. The obverse features a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and lists the face value of the coin. The reverse displays the kookaburra. Every year, the coin has a slightly different design, which makes the Silver Kookaburra coins attractive to collectors. From 1990 through 2010, only 300,000 coins were minted each year; the 2011 and 2012 versions have mintages of just 500,000.

The Perth Mint originally began in 1899 as a branch of Britain’s Royal Mint in order to help supply the 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.

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1.20.12 Weekly Recap

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Gold has made modest gains this week, closing about $21 higher than Monday’s spot prices. Silver made big gains, having climbed about $2, a gain of nearly 7%. The news about the world economy was mixed with most headlines pointing toward continued, but slow growth.  The outlook is optimistic for growth in the U.S. economy, which could be pushing silver prices up.

One week ago, the S&P announced downgrades to its credit ratings of several major European nations, but European markets reflected little concern for the downgrades.  Markets initially opened low but soon turned up. The euro zone’s potentially good news revolved around the results of a French bond sale, which was surprisingly brisk considering France’s credit rating downgrade last Friday. Fixed-income strategist Orlando Green said, “The bill auctions have been carried out without a problem, which is helpful for market sentiment toward the euro area. The reaction to the S&P downgrade has been somewhat muted. The move wasn’t a surprise and was well-flagged for a number of the issuers.”  The downgrades came as no surprise, as speculation had been in the news for a while. Steen Jakobsen at Saxo Bank said, “Effectively, the S&P did what it was supposed to do: It ignored the ‘PowerPoint presentation’ from the EU and looked only at the accounts. The accounts speak clearly for themselves: no progress, no real plans.”

The China GNP increased by 8.9% in the fourth quarter of 2011, which was better than expected. Since China’s economy is primarily export-based, the increase is a good sign for the global economy as well. This news has provided a boost for commodities which include precious metals. Prices of precious metals also are being helped by good news out of Germany, which has provided a boost for the euro against the U.S. dollar.

Unemployment and jobs reports are key indicators of domestic economic growth.  In data released on Thursday, the number of jobless claims decreased more than 50,000. Stocks opened on a higher note in conjunction with the feeling that the Fed has done enough to insulate the American economy from the euro zone debt crisis. The S&P 500 has gained 4%, the most since 1987. James Dunigan, chief investment officer for PNC Wealth Management, echoed that sentiment, saying, “Europe is important, but it’s not the end of the world if they see a recession. … We’re starting to see that modest economic growth expectation for this year.”

A true economic recovery this year in the U.S. is promising, thanks to an improved housing market. Homes are affordable, and the labor force is growing based on reports of a lower unemployment rate. Lawrence Yun of RBS Securities said, “December was a nice finish to a tough year in 2011. If that can be sustained, we are talking about a genuine recovery in 2012.”

WEEKLY SPOT PRICES

Gold: Spot Gold prices opened this week at $1,643.90. The high was on Thursday, Jan. 19th at $1,670.60, while the low for the week occurred on Monday, Jan. 16th, $1,631.90. Gold ended the week up $24.90 at $1,668.50. 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 $29.46. Silver reached a high of $31.72 on Friday, Jan. 20th, while this week’s low for Silver occurred on Monday, Jan. 16th $29.46. Silver ended the week up $2.80 at $32.26 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 $1,502.70 and ended the week up $36.40 at $1,539.10. 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 $640.00 and ended the week up $40.00 at $680.00. Palladium investors preferred 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Palladium Bars and Palladium Canadian Maple Leafs this week at APMEX.com.

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Palladium Maple Leaf Coins

Increase your Palladium holdings with the Palladium Maple Leaf 1 oz bullion coins from the Royal Canadian Mint. Palladium, known as Platinum’s “little brother,” is worthy of respect as an investment vehicle. With market studies under way for a potential U.S. Palladium bullion coin program, the demand for the silver-white metal might be primed for a rise in the near future. Produced from 2005 to 2007, and again in 2009, the Palladium Maple Leaf was the first Palladium bullion coin issued by a major world government. The coin’s total mintage of less than 200,000 adds to its collectability.

The obverse of the Palladium Maple Leaf features the depiction of Queen Elizabeth II by Susannah Blunt. The reverse displays one of Canada’s national symbols, the beautiful single maple leaf. This Maple coin contains a full troy ounce of .9995-fine Palladium and bears a face value of 50 Canadian Dollars. Considered more precious than Silver and of a higher rarity than Gold, Palladium’s market worth is closely tied to the manufacturing sector. Palladium also fills a key niche in the jewelry industry as one of the two components used to produce white Gold (Palladium mixed with Gold).

Many investors have begun stocking up on Palladium products as demand continues to grow, and APMEX can help you start building your Palladium portfolio.

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Is Your Portfolio Ready for 2012?

Accelerating U.S. Debt Load Could Mean A Riskier Economy

Many economists and investors have been focused on the debt crisis in Europe. But did you know that debt in the United States is now more than 90% of GDP, a sign of increasing economic risk? In fact, the gap between debt and GDP has narrowed considerably over the past two years (see Chart 1 below). This is placing increasing strain on the U.S. economy. Is your portfolio prepared to weather this uncertainty? Now is the time to review your portfolio and make sure you’re adequately diversified among stocks, bonds, cash and Gold — the fourth asset class.

In today’s video, APMEX Chief Executive Officer Michael Haynes talks about how growing debt levels in the U.S. are creating greater uncertainty in our financial markets. He also explains how a diversified asset allocation may help minimize risk in your portfolio.

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