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.
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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