1.13.12 Weekly Recap

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Molten Gold Pour. photo: Flickr.com- Ashvin Mistry

Gold broke the recent trend of following the euro’s movements against the U.S. dollar, thanks to safe-haven investment demand that originated from the renewed jitters in Europe. Economic expectations are pessimistic with inflation rising internationally and economic growth declining globally. Investors are searching for a safe-haven investment, such as precious metals. According to Sundeep Sikka, with Money Manager (India) Inc., “The current global macroeconomic environment is very conducive for higher Gold prices.” Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors echoed this sentiment, saying, “People get so caught up with the next three minutes for Gold, and they should really be focused on the next three years. Does anyone really believe in the long-term strength of the U.S. dollar?” Holmes said the Gold price could double within the next five years. Investors are buying U.S. bullion coins at the fastest pace in over two years, and China is importing more Gold than ever.  One analyst noted, “The thing that’s caught people’s minds is the massive increase in Chinese buying.  Gold has demonstrated time and time again its ability to hold purchasing power.” A poll of 164 investors conducted by Nomura showed that 19.5% of them prefer to buy Gold and hold it until the end of the year. The poll compared Gold, bonds and stocks as investment choices.

The United States reached a “symbolic tipping point” as the country’s national debt surpassed $15.23 trillion, which is nearly equal to the value of its entire economy. Debt projections estimate that the U.S. economy grew to around $15.3 trillion in December, a figure the debt level is expected to surpass in January. Estimated retail sales figures for December were not quite to the levels anticipated, and a reported increase in jobless claims defied expectations. The U.S economy is facing several obstacles to successful growth, including a high unemployment rate, low demand in the housing market, and the European debt crisis. Economists will be evaluating their fourth quarter gross domestic product estimates after data was released Friday morning showing that U.S. exports declined in November, and imports rose.  The U.S. trade deficit is at its widest in six months, and is higher than the consensus expectations of economists.

The Federal Reserve’s modifications to its communication approach are drawing favorable reviews, with the Fed indicating that it will provide updates four times a year on its plans for short-term interest rates. According to the Fed, the U.S. economy is expanding at a modest pace. The main crux of further improvement continues to be a less-than-stellar jobs market, which has prevented incomes from rising. Residential real estate is still viewed as sluggish, but commercial property markets have shown improvement. Consumer confidence was generally “characterized as firmer than in recent reporting periods.” Transcripts released from the Federal Reserve policy meeting showed that as late as December 2006, top Fed officials including Chairman Ben Bernanke believed that the housing market was stabilizing and failed to anticipate the subsequent housing crash. Fed policymakers were seemingly oblivious to the threat housing represented to financial markets and the economy. The housing market’s crash resulted in a U.S. banking crisis and the biggest recession this country has seen since the Great Depression, as well as a corresponding increase in the price of Gold.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met to discuss Greece’s unresolved debt issues and to create a plan to ensure that the euro survives a potentially failing banking sector. The announcement was made that Greece would not receive its second bailout package (which would prevent a debt default in March) until Greece reaches an agreement with creditor banks on a bond swap. This week’s bond sale in Italy was not as successful as investors had anticipated. Even though Italy met the planned amount of 4.75 billion euros, hopes had been that the sale would bring in twice as much. The European Central Bank (ECB) decided to keep its key lending rate at 1%.  Afterwards, ECB President Mario Draghi warned of the “substantial” downside risks to the eurozone’s economic outlook, including increased debt market tensions, and stated that although there are “tentative signs of stabilization,” uncertainty remains “very high.” Fitch Ratings expressed that the ECB needs to do more to help Italy, the next big euro zone country seemingly in danger of default. The head of sovereign ratings for Fitch, David Riley, described a potential collapse of the euro as “cataclysmic.”  A French newspaper published a story that said that Standard & Poor’s would be downgrading France’s “AAA” credit rating by one notch.  Although the paper didn’t cite any sources and an official announcement wasn’t scheduled until late Friday afternoon, stocks experienced a triple-digit drop.  Gold and Silver saw drops as well, although they quickly climbed back up to the levels they were at before the news was released.  The expectation is that several other euro zone countries will be downgraded; this could force investment funds to sell bonds because they have a requirement that a set percentage of their bonds be AAA-rated. For those countries that would be affected, this could raise their borrowing costs. At a time when debt is rising and GDP (income) is declining, the last thing these countries need is for borrowing costs to rise.

Several hedge funds indicated that they are not willing to accept International Monetary Fund (IMF) proposals to bring Greek debt down to affordable levels by taking a voluntarily 50% loss on bond holdings. Instead, the hedge funds would prefer to either let Greece go bankrupt in the hopes that the hedge funds will be covered by the credit insurance they bought to protect against loss, or to get others involved and force the issue so that the funds will get paid in full. It’s a dangerous game being played by two parties with completely different interests. The hedge funds are focusing on what is best for their clients, and the IMF is trying to fix the entire sovereign debt problem in Europe. Greece is preparing to start final talks that could affect whether that country stays in the euro zone. In a move that will probably not sit well with German constituents already opposed to Germany’s role in the Greek bailout, German Chancellor Merkel announced that Germany would be willing to pay more funds to help conclude negotiations over the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) permanent bailout fund. The Greek bailout is viewed as the key solution before the European Union can work toward growth and job creation.

Tensions continued to grow in Iran, as one of the country’s nuclear scientists was killed by a car bomb on Wednesday. The bombing came as sanctions were being toughened on Iran because of its nuclear program. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, Iran immediately blamed the U.S. and Israel.  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has denied any American role in the slaying, and the U.S administration condemned the attack. However, Israeli officials, without admitting involvement, have hinted at covert campaigns against Iran, and Israel’s military chief of staff said that similar “unnatural” events could be expected this year if Iran continues along its path of nuclear development. The U.S. is looking for support from the Japanese government on imposing economic sanctions against Iran for its nuclear development program, as Japan is one of the top-three buyers of Iranian oil. President Barack Obama announced this week that the U.S. would freeze out financial institutions that deal with Iran’s central bank.

Recent data from China shows an increase in that country’s trade surplus for December.  Although expectations were met on export growth, import growth declined sharply. China is often seen as a major component of a global economic recovery. Barclays Capital Analysts said, “…the Chinese economy remains on track for a soft landing, with external weakness continuing to pose the biggest downside risk.” The U.S. and its allies are looking to impose stronger sanctions on Iran due to that nation’s nuclear ambitions, and China, as Iran’s top trade partner, seems to be caught in the middle. Hua Liming, former ambassador to Iran, said, “Iran will expect China to support its interests at the U.N. and other international circumstances, while the U.S. will exert tremendous pressure on China and use the Iran issue to judge if China is a ‘responsible’ major power.” Meanwhile, Chinese Gold imports from Hong Kong have climbed to a record high due to investment demand. China bought nearly 103,000 kilos from Hong Kong in November alone.

WEEKLY SPOT PRICES

Gold: Spot Gold prices opened this week at $1,609.20. The high was on Thursday, Jan. 12th at $1,622.90, while the low for the week occurred on Monday, Jan. 9th, $1,605.70. Gold ended the week up $32.10 at $1,641.30. 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 $28.25. Silver reached a high of $30.68 on Thursday, Jan. 12th, while this week’s low for Silver occurred on Monday, Jan. 9th at $28.55. Silver ended the week up $0.86 at $29.81 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 $1,428.40 and ended the week up $64.20 at $1,492.60. 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 $616.80 and ended the week up $22.20 at $639.00. Palladium investors preferred 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Palladium Bars and Palladium Canadian Maple Leafs this week at APMEX.com.

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Australian Gold Lunar Coins

Designed by the Perth Mint in Australia, the Australian Gold Lunar coins are among some of the most beautiful coins in the world. Centered around the Chinese lunar calendar, the Australian Gold Lunar coins appeal to collectors and investors all over the world. Created because of popular demand from international investors and the success of the Australian Gold Lunar Series I coins, the Australian Gold Lunar Series II began in 2008 with the Year of the Mouse coins and will end with the Year of the Pig coins in 2019.

Struck from .9999 fine gold, Australian Gold Lunar coins are a great way to acquire and invest in precious metals. Legal Australian tender, most Gold Lunar coins are struck with a larger diameter. Inspired by China’s ancient lunar calendar, the Australian Gold Lunar Series coins feature the 12 animals central to the calendar’s stories. According to the lunar calendar, each of these 12 animals has a profound influence over those born under its year of “rule.”

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New! APMEX Gold Bars in Tamper-Evident Packaging

 

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If you are looking to increase your allocation to Gold this year, consider APMEX Gold Bars — superbly manufactured in .9999-fine Gold. Choose from four sizes, 1 oz., 10 gram, 5 gram and 1 gram, to meet your investment goals and budget. The added value of these bars is the tamper-evident packaging (TEP), which protects the bar and adds another level of security to guarantee the bar’s authenticity. APMEX has a reputation for quality, and provides safe and secure shipping. Order your APMEX Gold Bars — in stock and ready to ship today — while supplies last!

See The Difference in Quality from APMEX. Not all Gold bars are alike. APMEX Gold Bars are pure Gold at four-nines, .9999-fine, and we stand behind every product with a satisfaction guarantee. Our Gold Bars are sealed in tamper-evident packages that provide another level of security and serve as assay cards to guarantee the weight, purity and authenticity of the Gold. In addition, with APMEX Gold Bars you get:

  • A high-quality strike
  • Purity and size stamped on the bar
  • A manufacturer with an excellent reputation
  • A well-known product

The back (reverse) of each bar features the APMEX name and web address, while the front (obverse) depicts the APMEX eagle logo, along with the purity and weight. Start the   year off by balancing your investment portfolio with an allocation to Gold.   APMEX Gold Bars are in stock and ready to ship in four different sizes, 1   oz., 10 gram, 5 gram and 1 gram. Order   today, while supplies last.

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1.6.12 Weekly Recap

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Gold prices started the week trading higher amid New Year optimism in global markets. It was a volatile week for the precious metal yet prices were still above $1,600 per ounce as the week came to a close.  Analysts remain optimistic over Gold’s performance in the coming year, with many expecting demand for the precious metal to see a boost in response to any quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve and/or European Central Bank. Analysts from Merrill Lynch said this week that they “believe the high cost structure of the global Gold sector should provide support” to the price of the metal.  They expect the price of Gold to average $1,850 an ounce in the coming year.  Even Dennis Gartman of the Gartman Letter changed his view on Gold, becoming “officially bullish” again. He wrote, “The bear run that began in August has now officially ended.”

Geopolitical tension strengthens Gold’s appeal as a safe-haven asset. This was apparent during the past 13 months, with the start of the Arab Spring that spread to Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and others. Now, there are many other situations at play. The ongoing conflict with Iran over the Strait of Hormuz, combined the news that Iran produced its first nuclear rod this week, brought about some safe haven buying of Gold. As the U.S. continued to hit Iran with sanctions, the Middle-East country threatened the United States Navy with military action if a departing U.S. aircraft carrier returns.  Iranian army chief Salehi said, “I advise, recommend, and warn [the U.S.] over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once.” Meanwhile, the financial sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union (EU) started to affect Iran negatively by cutting off the ability of Iran to collect payment for oil exports. The European Union came to a preliminary agreement with the U.S. to ban imports of Iranian oil. However, many countries in the EU are dependent on the oil imports. Paul Stevens, economist and emeritus professor at Dundee University in Scotland told CNBC, “”Greece’s economy is already mired in deep recession and could feasibly collapse entirely if the sanctions were imposed. But the impact that would have on countries like Italy and Greece would be enormous, and the Greeks are not going to slit their own throats for the sake of an EU sanction when Iran is the only country willing to offer them oil on favorable terms. It would utterly destroy the Greek economy.”

With the European Central Bank (ECB) continuing to lend money at a very low 1% interest rate to European banks, the opinion is divided over whether that cash flow is actually helping Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, or if the money is just being hoarded by banks. Of issue is a lack of trust in lending between banks, and that lack of trust has the ECB fearing a potential credit crunch within the eurozone, which would be detrimental to the hopes of climbing out of the debt crisis. Renewed concerns about European economic issues caused the euro to plunge to its lowest point in 16 months on Thursday, resulting in a corresponding downturn of global stocks and commodities. Against the U.S. dollar, the European currency dropped below $1.28 today, a level not seen since September 2010. Explaining the euro drop, Marc Chandler, chief currency strategist with Brown Brothers Harriman, said, “I think the market’s primarily concerned about the rollover (of debt) risk from the sovereigns as well as the banks’ capital. You also had weaker European economic data.” Chandler said these concerns, although not new, have flared in response to efforts by Unicredit, Italy’s largest bank, to attract investors by offering a 43% discount on new shares. According to Chandler, “People expect a downgrade any day. Next week, you have Spain and Italy coming to the bond market. Full liquidity hasn’t really returned to the market. The euro is falling against the dollar and also making new lows against sterling and the yen.” European Central Bank policymaker Athanasios Orphanides said that he thinks banks are paying too much for the economic collapse in Greece.  He recently asked leaders in the eurozone to go back on plans which would make private sector investors – the banks – take a large share in reducing Greece’s debts.  Orphanides said that although the Greek government might suffer, “by restoring trust in the eurozone, it would reduce the financing costs of other eurozone governments.” This idea is unlikely to gain much steam, however, as the main force in the eurozone now is Germany, the country that was very much behind the banks taking a haircut on Greek debt.

Germany sold 4.06 billion euros of government bonds this week, with a higher demand than previously recorded in November. Also this week, France sold 8 billion euro’s worth of higher-yield bonds, and the European Financial Stability Fund sold 3 billion euros in three-year bonds. This past December, Standard & Poor’s warned German and French governments of possible bond rating downgrades, and some economists have said that France might be the first to lose its AAA credit rating. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel plan to meet next week to review Europe’s new fiscal agreement before the EU summit planned for the end of this month. Europe seems to be heading towards a recession with the austerity measures in place, which has caused citizens to be more hesitant to spend money accompanied by an increased unemployment rate. Jennifer McKeown at Capital Economics commented on the down fall of Europe by saying, “Things are really starting to slow down. There’s an underlying economic downturn going on at the same time as the peripheral debt crisis continues. Even the strongest parts of the euro-zone economy are beginning to falter. We see the euro zone beginning to break up, perhaps as soon as this year.”

A key U.S. manufacturing index for December was released that shows evidence of growth. The demand for automobiles and an increase in holiday sales has helped pave the pathway for a U.S. economic recovery. The U.S. housing market  has been a concern since 2008. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that applications for U.S. home mortgages fell 4.1% in the last week of December, along with a 9.6% drop in purchase loan requests and 2.5% drop in refinancing requests. The housing market is an important facet of the U.S. economy and should reflect positive numbers to show a full economic recovery. U.S. stock futures rose on Friday after the nonfarm jobs report by Automatic Data Processing Inc. was released. Economists expected the number of jobs added in December to reach 150,000, and the report showed 200,000 jobs added. The value of the U.S. dollar also rose.

There were many factors driving uncertainty in the market in 2011. With a new year to tackle new problems, the eurozone crisis remains intact with no solution in sight. This ongoing crisis has driven borrowing costs to unsustainable levels and created concern for a banking crisis in Europe. In an outlook note on 2012, David Simmonds with the Royal Bank of Scotland wrote, “The eurozone crisis is life-threatening because there is too much debt, too little growth and huge intra-zone trade imbalances — belated resurrection of fiscal rules is no panacea. We are in a multiyear de-leveraging world with multiyear low-growth consequences, so mistrust most the quick-fix, free-liquidity addicts who seize on each emergency monetary policy response as a cure-all.”

WEEKLY SPOT PRICES

Gold: Spot Gold prices opened this week at $1,600.50. The high was on Friday, Jan. 6th at $1,632.30, while the low for the week occurred on Tuesday, Jan. 3rd at $1,566.80. Gold ended the week up $17.90 at $1,618.40. 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 $29.52. Silver reached a high of $29.74 on Wednesday, Jan. 4th, while this week’s low for Silver occurred on Tuesday, Jan. 3rd at $27.91. Silver ended the week down $0.74 at $28.78. 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 $1,429.40 and ended the week down $22.40 at $1407.00. 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 $663.60 and ended the week down $46.40 at $617.00. Palladium investors preferred 1 oz. Pamp Suisse Palladium Bars and Palladium Canadian Maple Leafs this week at APMEX.com.

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Certified Morgan Dollars

One of the most famous and collectible American coins is the Morgan Silver Dollar, produced from 1878-1904 and in 1921. The 90% Silver coin was also popular for trading. The coin is labeled in reference to the celebrated design by George T. Morgan, a pupil of William Wyon of the Royal Mint in London. The coin’s obverse depicts a profile of Lady Liberty wearing a band on her head with the word “LIBERTY” inscribed. Her profile is surrounded by the words “E Pluribus Unum” and the date of mintage. The coin’s reverse features an eagle carrying an olive branch and arrows. Morgan’s initial, M, can be found both on the front and back of the coin, but this well-known design is easily distinguishable among other Silver Dollars.

The Morgan Dollar is also valued for its high-quality strike. For many collectors, the coin provides a fun, yet challenging collecting experience because of the many varieties and overdates available. Many have survived in relatively high grades considering their age and their use as a common currency. APMEX offers high quality certified Morgan Dollars ranging from MS-62 up to the rare MS-68 from PCGS and NGC grading services. APMEX Certified Morgan Dollars are excellent options for expanding your collection of American numismatic history. APMEX makes it easy to buy Silver Dollars by offering competitive Silver prices on all Silver products.

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12.30.11 Weekly Recap

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APMEX Wishes You a Prosperous New Year!

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.

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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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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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