Monday 2nd May 2016
NEWS TICKER: Central bank policy is still dominating the trading agenda, even though most analysts believe that the Fed will, if it does move, move only once this year and will raise rates by a quarter of a percent. The statement of the US FOMC was terse and most likely signals extreme caution on its part, though there is a belief that hawkish voices are rising in the committee. The reality is though that the US economic growth story is slowing. Many think the June meeting will spark the uplift. Let’s see. The US dollar is continuing to lose ground across the board after data showed the US economy expanded at its slowest pace since the second quarter of 2009, according to the BEA, which FTSE Global Markets reported on last Friday. GDP increased at a 0.5% annualised rate - versus an expected 0.7% - after rising 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2015 as personal consumption failed to boost growth in spite of low gasoline prices. Central bank caution makes sense in that context, however timing will be sensitive. If the central bank moves in the autumn it threatens to unbutton the presidential elections; but the reality is that mixed data will emanate from the US over this quarter which will make a June decision difficult. It’s tough being an FOMC member right now. The Bank of Japan meanwhile signalled its intention to stay the course this week with current policy, which discombobulated the markets. The Japanese markets were closed today for a public holiday, so it won’t be entirely clear if the market will suffer for the central bank’s decision. Certainly if fell 3.61% yesterday and is down 5% on the week. so the omens aren’t great. Of course, the pattern that is well established of late is that as the market falls, the yen appreciates. The yen was trading at 107.14 against the dollar last time we looked, compared with 108 earlier in the session, having at times touched 111/$1 yesterday (the lowest point for more than 18 months) The month to date has seen a rise in both the short term and long term volatility gauges. Coinciding with the rise, Nikkei 225 Index Structured Warrant activity has also significantly picked up. Nikkei 225 Structured Warrants showed increased activity with daily averaged traded value up 33% month-on-month. The Nikkei 225 Index Structured Warrants had significant increase in trading activity year-on-year with total turnover up by 6.8 times. – ASIAN TRADING SESSION - Australia's ASX 200 reversed early losses to close up 26.77 points, or 0.51%, at 5,252.20, adding 0.3% for the week. The uptick today was driven by gains in the heavily-weighted financials sub-index, as well as the energy and materials sub-indexes. In South Korea, the Kospi finished down 6.78 points, or 0.34%, at 1,994.15, while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 1.37%. Chinese mainland markets were mixed, with the Shanghai composite dropping 7.13 points, or 0.24 percent, at 2,938.45, while the Shenzhen composite finished nearly flat. The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 12.42 points or 0.43% lower to 2862.3, taking the year-to-date performance to -0.71%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which gained 0.26%, DBS, which declined 1.03%, NOL, which gained closed unchanged, OCBC Bank, which declined 1.00% and CapitaLand, with a 0.63% fall. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained 0.60%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index rose 0.49%. Structured warrants on Asian Indices have continued to be active in April. YTD, the STI has generated a total return of 1.3%. This compares to a decline of 4.9% for the Nikkei 225 Index and a decline of 6.3% of the Hang Seng Index. Of the structured warrants available on Asian Indices, the Hang Seng Index Structured Warrants have remained the most active in the year to date with Structured Warrants on the Nikkei 225 Index and STI Index the next most active – FUND FLOWS – BAML reports that commodity fund flows went back to positive territory after taking a breather last week, supported again by inflows into gold funds. “The asset class is currently the best performer, with year to date % of AUM inflow at 15%, far ahead of all other asset classes. Global EM debt flows reflected the bullish turn of the market on EMs, recording the tenth consecutive week of positive flows. On the duration front, short-term funds recorded a marginal inflow, keeping a positive sign for the last four weeks. The mid-term IG funds continue to record strong inflows for a ninth week. But it looks like investors have started to embrace duration to reach for yield, as inflows into longer-term funds have recorded a cumulative 0.8% inflow in the past two weeks,” says the BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research team – GREEN BONDS - Banco Nacional de Costa Rica is the latest issuer with a $500m bond to finance wind, solar, hydro and wastewater projects. The bond has a coupon of 5.875% and matures on April 25th 2021. Banco Nacional will rely on Costa Rican environmental protection regulations to determine eligible projects. This is the fourth green bond issuance in Latin America, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI). Actually, Costa Rica is one of the global leaders in terms of renewable energy use. In the first quarter of 2016 it sourced 97.14% of its power from renewables. Hydro's share alone was 65.62%. – SOVEREIGN DEBT - After coming to market with a 100 year bond last week, the Kingdom of Belgium (rated Aa3/AA/AA) has opened books on a dual tranche bond; the first maturing in seven years; the second in 50 years, in a deal managed by Barclays, Credit Agricole, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Natixis and Société Générale. Managers have marketed the October 22nd 2023 tranche at 11 basis points (bps) through mid-swaps and the June 22nd 2066 tranche in the high teens over the mid of the 1.75% 2066 French OAT – LONGEVITY REINSURANCE - Prudential Retirement Insurance and Annuity Company (PRIAC) and U.K. insurer Legal & General say they have just completed their third longevity reinsurance transaction together, further evidence that longevity reinsurance continues to be a vehicle for UK insurers seeking relief from pension liabilities exposed to longevity risk. “This latest transaction builds on our relationship with Legal & General and solidifies the platform from which future business can be written,” explains Bill McCloskey, vice president, Longevity Risk Transfer at Prudential Retirement. “It's also a testament to our experience in the reinsurance space and our capacity to support the growth of the U.K. longevity risk transfer market.” Under the terms of the new agreement, PRIAC will issue reinsurance for a portion of Legal & General's bulk annuity business, providing benefit security for thousands of retirees in the UK. PRIAC has completed three reinsurance transactions with Legal & General since October 2014 – VIETNAM - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services has affirmed its 'BB-' long-term and 'B' short-term sovereign credit ratings on Vietnam. The outlook is stable. At the same time, we affirmed our 'axBB+/axB' ASEAN regional scale rating on Vietnam. The ratings, says S&P, reflect the country's lower middle-income, rising debt burden, banking sector weakness, and the country's emerging institutional settings that hamper policy responsiveness. Even so, the ratings agency acknowledges these strengths are offset by Vietnam's sound external settings that feature adequate foreign exchange reserves and a modest external debt burden. The country has a lower middle income but comparatively diversified economy. S&P estimates GDP per capita at about US$2,200 in 2016. “Recent improvements in macroeconomic stability have supported strong performance in the sizable foreign-owned and export-focused manufacturing sector (electronics, telephones, and clothing). This strength will likely be offset by weaker domestic activity as the impetus to growth stemming from low household and company sector leverage is hampered by weak banks and government enterprises, and shortfalls in infrastructure. We expect real GDP per capita growth to rise by 5.3% in 2016 (2015: 5.6%) and average 5.2% over 2016-2019, reflecting modest outlooks for Vietnam's trading partners. Uncertain conditions in export markets and the slow pace in addressing government enterprise reforms, fiscal consolidation, and banking sector resolution add downside risks to this growth outlook – RUSSIA - Russia's central bank held interest rates steady at 11% today, in line with expectations, although it hinted that if inflation kept on falling it would cut soon. Last month, the bank held rates steady, warning that inflation risks remained "high" and that the then oil price rise could be "unsustainable." However, the decision came at a time of renewed hope for Russia's beleaguered economy and the country's oil industry with commodity prices showing tentative signs of recovery. The central bank noted that it "sees the positive processes of inflation slowdown and inflation expectations decline, as well as shifts in the economy which anticipate the beginning of its recovery growth. At the same time, inflation risks remain elevated." Yann Quelenn, market analyst at Swissquote explains: "The ruble has continued to appreciate ever since it reached its all-time low against the dollar in early January. At that time, more than 82 ruble could be exchanged for a single dollar note. Now, the USDRUB has weakened below 65 and even more upside pressures on the currency continue as the rebound in oil prices persists. The outlook for Russian oil revenues is more positive despite the global supply glut. Expectations for increased oil demand over the coming years and the fear of peak oil are driving the black commodity’s prices higher – MARKET DATA RELEASES TODAY - Other data that analysts will be looking out for today include Turkey’s trade balance; GDP from Spain; the unemployment rate from Norway; mortgage approvals from UK; CPI and GDP from the eurozone; CPI from Italy; and South Africa’s trade balance – FTSE GLOBAL MARKETS – Our offices will be closed on Monday, May 2ndt. We wish our readers and clients a happy and restful May bank holiday and we look forward to reconnecting on Tuesday May 3rd. Happy Holidays!

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Gold outlook remains tied to political risks

Wednesday, 08 February 2012
Gold outlook remains tied to political risks If 2011 was all about a strong investment case for gold, the sell-off at the very end of last year heralded a more cautious approach to the yellow metal. Most analysts believe gold will continue to rise in the first half of 2012, possibly by as much as $300 to $500 a troy ounce. However, they also warn that prices are likely to start falling in the second half of this year and continue on a downward path into 2013, while platinum and palladium could climb steadily. By Vanya Dragomanovich. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/media/k2/items/cache/5214bdb529ff52c2bc08d9b03f97b94e_XL.jpg

If 2011 was all about a strong investment case for gold, the sell-off at the very end of last year heralded a more cautious approach to the yellow metal. Most analysts believe gold will continue to rise in the first half of 2012, possibly by as much as $300 to $500 a troy ounce. However, they also warn that prices are likely to start falling in the second half of this year and continue on a downward path into 2013, while platinum and palladium could climb steadily. By Vanya Dragomanovich.

The vast strategic allocations—not only from speculators but also from private banking and high net worth individuals—which have shaped the precious metals market over the past two and a half years have now subsided, according to Nick Moore, a commodity analyst at RBS. “To us this had always seemed inevitable. Investment demand could not expand perpetually,” he says.
Even so, this is no grounds to become bearish because the arguments in favour of investing in gold remain solid, adds Moore. Last year, it has to be said, was busier than most, dotted with events that inevitably propelled investors towards gold as a safe haven. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s the well-worn list: the Arab Spring; the Japan earthquake; the conflict in Libya; the downgrading of the US sovereign debt; the Greek debt crisis. Equally inevitably, gold prices shot up from $1,370 a troy ounce in January 2011 to a high of more than $1,900/oz in September. The subsequent drop to $1,670/oz by year end was as much about cashing in on the year's rally as it was about deleveraging while the debt crisis exerted its wasting grip on Europe.
It is patently clear already that a lot of the uncertainty of 2011 will overhang across the market, at least for the first half of 2012. The list of reasons is again very obvious: the chronic European debt problem; fragile growth in the global economy; and unsettling political stresses emanating from Iran and the US, even potentially Syria. All of these elements will continue to inject volatility into the gold market.
With this amount of uncertainty it would be foolish to write off gold as an investment. Despite the sell-off in December, a large proportion of investors across the board—be they retail, central banks, large institutions or speculators––continue to look at gold either as an alternative currency or a diversification asset designed to protect against losses from other investments.
In the past two months investors have been divided in their approach to gold. While short-term speculators liquidated large positions in December, cashing in on a rally that happened over the course of 2011, long-term investors, particularly ETF investors, stuck faithfully to their positions. Speculative positions in Comex gold are at their lowest levels since 2009 but physical gold ETF holdings reached record levels of 2,300 tonnes in December.
Since the beginning of this year “fresh money has been put to work and the energy sector and precious metals have so far been the main recipients,” particularly gold and silver, says Ole Sloth Hansen, senior commodity manager at Saxo Bank. One of the key factors working in favour of gold is the low interest rate environment which currently exists in over half of G20 countries, he adds.
Further monetary easing in Europe, China and potentially a round of QE3 in the US will increase liquidity and drive the gold price to new records, possibly as early as the first half of 2012. “Liquidity will be a stronger influence on market performance than macroeconomic turbulence,” says Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB bank.
The European sovereign debt crisis will also be supportive at the retail level because at times of crisis retail investors tend to buy gold bars and coins. While at first glance this type of demand may seem like a small driver of the market, industry consultancy Thomson Reuters GFMS says that last year bar and coin buying rivalled that of ETF investment flows.
“Private investors in Europe and the US are the biggest buyers of bars and coins; they buy it for safety because they are worried about the purchasing power of paper currencies,” says Carsten Fritsch, an analyst at Commerzbank.
Another big contributor to a high gold price in 2011 was the fact that central banks bought some 450 tonnes of the metal. Analysts expect the trend to subside this year but not to stop. “Central banks in emerging markets are still heavily under-invested in gold,” says Fritsch. “In 2011 Mexico for instance bought 100 tonnes of gold and Russia, Turkey and South Korea were all major buyers. We don't expect to see the same amount of central bank buying this year but we do expect central banks to buy smaller amounts, for instance Russia,” he says. Fritsch argues that if Russia does come back as a buyer it will most likely absorb some of the domestic gold production but this will mean that less gold will make it onto the global market.
One of the two key risk factors for gold is the strength of the dollar, particularly when it weakens the currency of a big gold buyer such as India. When the rupee plunged against the US currency in late 2011, domestic gold buying as good as dried up. The other potential threat to gold is a recovery in equity markets which annuls the reasons for safe-haven buying.
Looking at other precious metals such as silver, platinum and palladium, there is an interesting investment case to be made—particularly for palladium. All three were sold off heavily at the end of last year to the point that they are now considered relatively cheap.
“Within the precious metals group we see palladium as the better pick given its bias to the US and China,” says Deutsche Bank's Michael Lewis. The palladium price depends heavily on demands from the car industry which uses it to make catalytic converters, to cut CO2 emissions. In November 2011, US car sales rose by 14% and Chrysler said recently that its US sales rose 37% in December, the fastest of the top three US car manufacturers.
On the other hand, Chinese car sales slowed considerably in 2011 because of the phasing out of tax subsidies and car scrappage incentives. Yet even with that, China's sales of 18.5m cars in 2011 still outstripped the estimated 12.8m light vehicles sold in the US. This comes at a time investors in palladium futures cut their net long positions by 77% from August 2011 highs and when ETF investors reduced their exposure by 23% for the same period.
An important question this year is whether Russia will stick to current export volumes for palladium. The answer is actually a political one.  Although Russia's nickel miner Norilsk Nickel is the world's biggest palladium producer, stocks of palladium are ­state-controlled and sold through a government agency that never reveals how much stock it holds or plans to sell. For years analysts in the West have speculated that those stockpiles are about to come to an end, this year being no exception, but there is so far no material evidence to support this. The speculation may prove yet again to be a case of wishful thinking rather than actual fact.
Even so, Commerzbank expects palladium prices to recover noticeably over the course of this year and to hit $850 by the end of 2012, up from the current $680/oz.
There is a similar case to be argued for platinum, which is also used by the car industry and in jewellery. Platinum has traditionally traded at a higher price than gold, but with gold now the more expensive metal, jewellers, particularly in Asia, are switching to platinum as an alternative.
On the supply side, South Africa, the biggest platinum producing country, is facing problems with electricity supplies which could hamper platinum mining over coming months. However, at current prices, platinum miners are under pressure and on an all-in cost basis many are making losses. “We believe this is unsustainable in the long run and something has to give—the price has to recover or production growth will slow,” says RBS's Moore. He sees the $1,400/oz level as the floor and expects that any dips in prices below that figure will prove short-lived. In similar vein, Commerzbank forecasts platinum prices to rise to $1,850/oz by year end from the current $1,550/oz.
Silver is probably the most volatile of the three and not a market for the faint-hearted. “Silver has always been a volatile metal, but 2011 was a vintage year. The euphoria of the 89% February-April rally to a $50/oz peak was followed by the revulsion of a 35% collapse, the latter over just two weeks. A few months later, in September, an even more dramatic drop saw silver shed 40% of its value,” says Moore. This serves as a painful reminder for investors to tread cautiously, or at least not to leave their silver positions unchecked for lengthy periods.
This year the demand from the electrical and electronics industry, the key consumer of silver, will continue to support prices although consumption from solar cell makers is likely to slow after several years of fast growth.
RBS's Moore expects silver to rally from current levels to a peak of $34/oz in the third quarter, in line with gold, but to trend lower afterwards.

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