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Gold price in 2013: Watch out for probability of bubble burst

Last updated: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 12:40 AM

LONDON – Gold demand has slowed and supply is on the rise, while stocks become attractive again; will the price of gold take a break?

Gold prices have increased from around $300 per ounce in the year 2000 to the current level of nearly $1,700, but analysts at Societe Generale warn that the precious metal’s rise might take a break this year, Emerging Markets online said Monday.

They point out that demand fell by 11 percent in the third quarter of last year compared with the same quarter of 2011, mainly because of moderate consumption in the world’s two biggest consumers of gold, China and India.

Meanwhile, supply, which “seemed to have stagnated in the past two years without any impact on the gold price,” is set to increase this year and in 2014, Societe Generale’s analysts wrote in a market note.

Production should rise in China, where consumer demand should pick up in the medium term with the rise of the middle class, especially if the new government manages to implement reforms to avoid a hard landing.

The analysts noted that China was buying foreign gold mines, as it did for many other commodities that it needs.

They identified three negative factors for gold: the first is that equities “stand at their lowest level in 20 years relative to gold, making the latter less attractive.” The second is the fact that, amid signs of a stronger economic recovery, the US dollar could appreciate and interest rates could rise. And the third negative factor is that, despite predictions that major central banks’ unprecedented levels of money-printing, inflation is “still under control.”

Besides, since the year 2000 gold returns “have been much higher compared to the rest of the century” and the price of gold, despite a recent correction, remains near historical highs, the analysts said.

But they also identified positive factors which could mean that gold prices still have upside potential, such as renewed monetary easing which could push the price higher, demand from emerging countries which may increase further and the fact that, in the long run, gold “may play a role in the transition to an international currency system.”

Demand for gold in China, despite the recent cooling off because of the economic slowdown, could be an opportunity as in the long run greater affluence of the population should contribute to a revival in gold buying, they said.

Gold buying for reserves could be another area where demand from China could rise. China’s gold reserves represent 0.75 percent of its 2012 gross domestic product, compared with 9.52 percent for Switzerland, 5.55 percent for Germany, 2.96 percent for the US and 1.78 percent for India.

Meanwhile, platinum prices hit three-month highs at 1,702.05 an ounce as top global platinum miner Anglo American Platinum warned it would axe 14,000 jobs in a broad restructuring of its South African operations, prompting workers to launch a new strike.

Months after being swept up in deadly strikes that crippled South Africa’s key mining sector, Amplats on Tuesday said it planned to close four shafts and sell a mine considered unsustainable.

“This development was not unexpected, due to high and increasing costs at South African mines,” said Ross Strachan, an analyst from Capital Economics.

“Indeed, we have noted for some time that platinum prices were likely to recover in 2013, despite our gloomy prognosis for demand, as rising energy and labor costs in South Africa would lead to mines and shafts closing.” – SG/Agencies

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