Does the gold price reflect true gold demand and supply?
The Gold Fix
Despite the furore surrounding the Gold Fix [unfairly, we believe] it is a singularly determined attempt amongst commodities to set a twice daily price that does reflect demand and supply of gold, at those moments. To understand this we have to see what happens at the Fixing sessions.
The five banks involved in fixing the morning and afternoon Fix of the gold price open a conference line to each other at 10.30a.m. and at 3.00p.m. in the afternoon. At the same time each bank opens their lines to contact their main clients, who could include mining companies, refiners of gold, jewellers, gold dealers and all the main professionals in the gold market. In turn these professional open their lines to their main clients which could also include central banks as well as wealthy individuals and other gold markets. These then react to a price put up by the Chairman of the Fix, representing his bank. This price is sent down the lines and each participant states the amount they are net buyers or sellers of. Each bank ‘nets out’ the demand and supply among his own clients before passing on the net order to the Fixing. At each price, orders down the line change and the price adjusted accordingly. Once the market is agreed upon a particular price all transactions are done at that price.
Bulk of Gold contracted
However, the amounts dealt do not include all the gold bought and sold in the market at that time. Many dealers, miners and jewellers refer to the Fixing price of gold and contract to deal at a price that reflects, usually, the afternoon Fix. This is deemed to be the most reflective of global demand and supply, at that particular moment, in time. But the fact that amounts of gold are dealt outside the market, with reference to the Fixing price, tells us that much of the world’s gold and supply does not go through the London market. The claim that 90% of gold’s demand and supply goes through the London market is therefore conjecture, not fact. It is impossible to say just how much gold is priced by reference to this Fix and not dealt in the market place, but it is substantial.
Outside the main markets
For instance, we believe that the bulk if not all of China’s internal gold production does not pass through the Shanghai Gold Exchange, but is sold directly to the agency that buys gold for the People’s Bank of China. This is around 430 tonnes per annum currently. These miners, it is thought are paid in the Yuan equivalent of the Gold Fixing price. Refiners selling directly to clients [who can be central banks dealing directly with them, banks taking stock, for delivery to markets elsewhere, large jewellers seeking a reliable, regular, source of gold, etc.] will follow the same practice. Most gold-backed U.S. exchange-traded funds use the London afternoon gold fix to calculate their net asset value, which in turn is used by ETF custodians to calculate their fees. The U.S. Mint and Royal Canadian Mint also price their products based on daily London p.m. gold fixes, or average weekly fixes. Many miners are active listeners to the fixing process as sellers.
Reflecting Marginal Demand and Supply of Gold
Therefore, as it the case with most commodity markets, the amount of gold actually bought and sold during the Fixing may well reflect the marginal demand and supply that falls outside the large contracts due to unforeseen changes in demand and supply. It is also where speculators who deal in physical gold buy and sell often to support their positions in the futures and Options markets on COMEX in the U.S.
COMEX, while a huge financial gold market only sees around 5% of these contracts result in a physical movement of gold. That’s after one party or the other gives notice that he wants physical delivery or supply. Such manipulation of gold prices is most frequently seen just ahead of the month end when contracts mature.
Charges that insider trading goes on in the Fixing, we believe are false. What does happen is that clients accessing the Fixing process then deal in the gold market on COMEX on the basis of the process. Add to this high frequency trading and you can see where the profit opportunities are. But we believe that few of these operators would risk dealing in physical gold in the Fixing, as that may work against them, increasing their risks. More profit lies in dealing in Futures and Options, on the side, we feel. What is transparent to all involved in the Fixing [who have an interest in that price] are online in the Fixing, so see a very transparent process going on in which they can partake. Those not involved but with a need to reference the price in their dealings, usually do not deal at the Fixing, but wait for the price to be Fixed before finalizing prices.
Hence the changing daily prices at the Fix, while not representing the total amount of gold bought and sold are the only reasonable reflection of the current gold price. We therefore expect that price to be treated as a reliable reflection of the current demand and supply of gold.
Hold your gold in such a way that governments and banks can’t seize it!
Legal Notice / Disclaimer
This document is not and should not be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase or subscribe for any investment. Julian D. W. Phillips makes no guarantee, representation or warranty and accepts no responsibility or liability as to its accuracy or completeness. Expressions of opinion are those of Julian D. W. Phillips only and are subject to change without notice. Julian D. W. Phillips assumes no warranty, liability or guarantee for the current relevance, correctness or completeness of any information provided within this Report and will not be held liable for the consequence of reliance upon any opinion or statement contained herein or any omission. Furthermore, we assume no liability for any direct or indirect loss or damage which you may incur as a result of the use and existence of the information, provided within this Report.