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LAWRIE WILLIAMS: Gold price: Latest bomb test could see fireworks next week

When the world’s largest gold ETF – SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) – adds gold into its holding, the gold price usually rises – and vice versa, but perhaps the second most bullish pointer for gold at the presnt time is that between June 8th and August 7th, some 80 tonnes of gold were liquidated out of GLD with only a limited overall impact on the gold price.  For the first month of the two month sell-off period, gold did fall back, but in the second month of sales out of GLD the gold price reversed and actually rose.  OK, so without these sales perhaps the gold price would have risen more sharply.  Since August 7th though we have seen purchases into GLD and the gold price has indeed risen fairly substantially, despite what look like big ‘flash crash’ sales of paper gold knocking the price back sharply, but only succeeding to do so for a very short time.

Another factor which has been apparent is that the trading volumes seen over the past few weeks have been particularly high for the end of what is a holiday period.  This suggests a raging battle under way between gold bulls and gold bears which the bulls appear to have been winning.  But – and it’s a big but – the holiday period is now coming to an end with the Labor Day holiday and the serious players will be back at their desks.  As we have pointed out before, major U.S. holidays seem often to provide inflection points in the markets, and observers will be keen to see whether Labor Day 2017 will prove to be one of these and see the gold price either take off strongly upwards, or be knocked sharply back yet again.

But the No.1 bullish factor for the gold price next week is probably the news that North Korea is confirmed to have tested a new, more powerful, nuclear weapon (50-60 kilotons according to reports) over the weekend, and that it could be fitted to one of its inter continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).  This may well sway any likely post-Labor Day inflection point towards the likelihood of a serious gold price boost next week.  U.S. markets will be closed Monday, but Asian and European ones may well lead the way upwards.

GLD liquidations or purchases may still provide a strong pointer to market direction for precious metals.  It tends to be bank and/or fund purchases or sales which account for major moves in GLD, so whether the ETF’s gold content bleeds or grows should be an excellent guide as to where the gold price may be headed.  Weak U.S. economic data has effectively removed the Fed’s prospective rate rise scenario from the gold price equation – at least for a couple of months although may have an impact in November as speculation will reign over whether the Fed will implement another small rise in December, or kick the can down the road again.  The U.S. dollar is looking weak and a weak dollar tends to see the dollar gold price rise. And it is the dollar gold price which the market judges to be the most important indicator, even though the gold price in other currencies, like the euro or the yen, should perhaps be more relevant.

We have ignored silver in this scenario, but silver continues to be tied to gold.  The gold:silver ratio (GSR) has fallen back below 75 again and will undoubtedly fall further should the gold price get a boost after Labor Day and the latest North Korean bomb test.  We see the GSR coming back down into the 60s which would make silver a far better short term buy than gold, but beware silver’s volatility.  However neither would be much good in a nuclear wasteland!

While North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un may not be as unstable as the media makes him out to be, the bomb test is yet another serious escalation in the DPRK/US confrontation and the big danger for further escalation here is that President Trump may be forced into military action, having backed himself into a corner with his rhetoric.  Unlike Iraq it looks as though North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are real and the U.S. may now feel it has to make a move, however costly this may be to the U.S. itself and its Asian allies within easy range of North Korea’s missiles, before the threat to the U.S. itself escalates further.   If North Korea has indeed developed a nuclear warhead for its ICBMs and they are capable of targeting U.S. mainland cities, the U.S. may feel the necessity for a pre-emptive strike and try and curtail the programme before the threat grows to an uncontrollable level.

The seemingly increasing threat of war between North Korea and the USA, will likely give the gold price a huge boost in the days and months ahead with safe haven demand escalating worldwide – and particularly in Asia and the U.S. itself.  It could also persuade those banks holding big short positions in gold and silver to cover and reverse their policies.  A gold price reset could be on the cards sooner than bulls like Jim Rickards and Eric Sprott have suggested – see $5,000 gold – then $10,000. Gold bulls sing from same songbook.

Thus be prepared for fireworks when markets re-open next week.  The latest North Korean bomb test is probably favouring gold moving upwards – perhaps strongly – when they do.

03 Sep 2017

About the author

Lawrence Williams

Lawrence (Lawrie) Williams is a well known London-based writer and commentator on financial and political subjects, but specialising in precious metals news and commentary. He is a qualified and experienced mining engineer having graduated in mining engineering from The Royal School of Mines, a constituent college of Imperial College, London – recently described as the World’s No. 2 University (after MIT).

e: lawrie.williams@sharpspixley.com

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