Gold price: Hedge funds scramble to cover 233 tonnes
Gold on Thursday was clawing its way back to the $1,200 an ounce level, buoyed by dovish comments from the US Federal Reserve about the pacing of interest rate cuts which took some shine of the strong dollar.
In brisk afternoon trade in New York, gold for delivery in August, the most active contract, added $25.50 an ounce or 2.2% from Wednesday's close to exchange hands for $1,202.40 an ounce, the best level since May 22.
Lower-for-longer interest rates add to the allure of gold which produces no income and relies on price appreciation to attract investors.
Worries about the economic impact of the Greek debt crisis and a weaker dollar also boosted the yellow metal which usually moves in the opposite direction to the greenback.
But much of Thursday action stemmed from speculators trying to cover massive short positions on the futures market that had been built up over several weeks.
Last week large investors on the futures market such as hedge funds, referred to as "managed money", added a whopping 31% to bearish bets compared to the week before.
In the week to June 9 according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission's weekly Commitment of Traders data, speculators' short positions – bets that gold could be bought cheaper in the future – jumped to more than 8.2 million ounces (233.5 tonnes).
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The latest figure surpasses the 7.7 million in March when gold was hitting lows for 2015 of around $1,150 and comes within shouting distance of the record-breaking short positions going into 2014. That December 2013 short position was the highest since 2007, back when gold changed hands for $700 an ounce.
On a net basis hedge funds are now long under 4.5 million ounces, more than 10 million ounces below levels hit in January this year.
Saxo Bank points out that when hedge funds go this light on gold it usually leads to a bounce in the price. As the graph shows that's happened four times since 2006.
While support for gold has now been firmly established around the $1,200 mark, for the metal to make a decisive move higher it would have to break through the $1,230 an ounce technical resistance level. That hasn't happened since January.
Image by Anthony Catalano