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The CEO’s departure and plans for a new mine strategy to be unveiled with third-quarter financial results are a reflection of growing investor impatience, sources say. (MICHAEL DALDER/REUTERS)
The CEO’s departure and plans for a new mine strategy to be unveiled with third-quarter financial results are a reflection of growing investor impatience, sources say. (MICHAEL DALDER/REUTERS)

Gold ascends as policy makers search for answers Add to ...

Nothing cheers a gold investor more than the growing suspicion that the world’s policy makers are scrambling for answers.

The precious metal continued its remarkable ascent on Monday after a meeting of finance ministers from the Group of 20 major economies concluded over the weekend without arriving at a co-ordinated plan to revive global growth.

China underlined the urgent need for stimulus by cutting the reserve requirement for its banks, a move designed to encourage more lending in its slowing economy.

And just for good measure, Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England, warned that the euro zone is doomed.

Gold’s rise reflects investors’ desire for refuge from the economic storm, according to Citigroup analysts. A recent weakening in the U.S. dollar has helped the metal, but “gold has also sniffed, through poor equity market trends, heightened risk in terms of global financial systemic risk,” according to Jon Bergtheil of Citigroup.

The metal has gained 16 per cent since New Year’s Day, making it the world’s best-performing major asset class so far this year. Among the forces driving it higher are the growing prevalence of negative interest rates, especially in Europe.

Gold pays no yield, so it tends to decline during times when competing stores of wealth, such as bonds and savings accounts, are delivering attractive rates of return. But when rates are low or even negative, as they are now, the precious metal shines.

The gold price rose again on Monday, climbing by about $9 (U.S.) an ounce to about $1,232. That marks a dramatic improvement from December when the metal slumped to five-year lows near $1,050 on fear that the U.S. Federal Reserve was going to begin a series of interest rate hikes.

Signs of a slowing global economy have pushed back expectations for higher rates and investors have flocked to gold as a haven from swooning stock markets. As a result, holdings of gold in exchange-traded products have surged to their highest level since 2014, according to Bloomberg.

On Monday, Deutsche Bank analysts raised their forecast for the gold price. They now expect the metal to average $1,195 an ounce this year compared with their previous forecast of $1,033.

Gold producers have benefited from the metal’s run and Canadian miners such as Barrick Gold Corp., Goldcorp Inc. and Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. have all enjoyed big gains since the start of the year.

But not everyone is convinced the gold rally has staying power. Goldman Sachs analysts wrote earlier this month that they expect the metal’s price to subside to about $1,000 an ounce by the end of this year.

One limiting factor to the gold rally is the increasing cost of the metal in many currencies. While it is still far below the $1,900 it reached in U.S.-dollar terms back in 2011, gold is near a record high when priced in terms of Canadian and Australian dollars.

Another worrisome sign for gold bulls is that silver has so far failed to rise in tandem. It is up only about 8 per cent so far this year, less than would be expected if investors were genuinely panicking.

The mood among investors appears to be more wary than desperate. Analysts are still trying to assess the outlook for China, where stock markets fell sharply on Monday.

Observers said many investors had hoped for more concrete action from the G20 summit. There are worries, too, that the cut in Chinese banks’ reserve requirements will help lower the value of the yuan.

Meanwhile, anxiety about Europe is on the rise. One danger is the increasing impact of slow growth and negative interest rates on the continent’s economy. Another is Brexit – the possibility that Britain will vote to leave the European Union.

Mr. King, the former Bank of England head, did nothing to calm nerves on the weekend when excerpts from his new book appeared in the Telegraph newspaper.

He warned that austerity and bailouts are eroding support for the euro zone. Policy makers have to face up to the fact that Greece and other uncompetitive economies in the south can only prosper again if the currency bloc is broken up, he wrote.

The threat of a busted euro, especially in conjunction with a weakening Chinese currency, does not bode well for the global economy. For gold investors, however, it’s all good news.

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Follow on Twitter: @IanMcGugan

 

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