Chinese Trade Surplus Jumps Ahead of New Year

Wholesale London gold rose back to Wednesday's 4-session high this morning, trading above $1,664 per ounce. 

Currencies were little moved, with "no change" decisions on interest rates expected in  both the UK and eurozone. 

World stock markets ticked higher – and commodities averaged a 1% gain – after strong new data from China.

Major-government bonds eased back meantime, and weaker Eurozone bond prices rose, after Spain successfully raised a fresh €5.8 billion ($7.6bn) of new debt at lower rates of interest than the last time of asking.

"Quantitative Easing is not the only bullish factor for gold," says January's Metal Matters Monthly from bullion-bank Scotia Mocatta.

"The financial system is drowning in debt and there seems no end in sight to ongoing massive budget deficits...Confidence in the financial system and in the fiat government paper that facilitates [it] will remain low."

"The physical market has already responded positively to that price fall, with bargain hunting appearing in a number of regions," says a note from another London market maker.

"Our view," added Nic Brown of French bullion bank Natixis to Reuters on Wednesday, "is that gold prices are likely to trade lower as the year progresses, but there are some significant upside risks in the very near term."

"If there was a reason for buying gold, you've got two good ones" in next month's Chinese New Year and the 'debt ceiling' deadline in the US political system, now just 7 weeks away, he added.

"We're surprised at how low gold prices are."

Currently 0.8% lower from New Year's Eve versus the US dollar, the gold price is currently flat for the month-to-date against the Euro, and more than 0.8% higher against the Japanese Yen at ¥146,600 per ounce.

"Whereas gold is above its 1980 highs against both the USD and the [Swiss Franc]," says a technical note from London market-maker HSBC's foreign exchange team today, "it has yet to surpass that barrier versus the [Japanese Yen]."

Rumors earlier this week claimed that the Bank of Japan is "mulling" a rise in its consumer-price inflation target from 1% to 2% – something which the Fitch Ratings agency said it would "watch closely" as Tokyo's public debt continues to swell.

"It appears probable," says HSBC, "that the 1980 high of ¥204,850 [per ounce] will be beaten before the gold bull market runs out of steam."

On the data front Thursday, China reported a surge in December trade, with its total surplus rising to $31.6 billion as imports rose 6% but exports leapt 14% from the same month in 2011.

"The rise in exports was a result of a rebound in demand from the major market – the US," says ANZ bank's chief China economist, Liu Li-Gang.

"Overall, the data today have lifted hopes for the Chinese economy, and financial markets," says Steve Barrow at Standard Bank, noting last month's 43% jump in 'total social financing' – a new measure of private-sector credit growth which includes non-bank lending.

Warning that China's economic growth could slip to 6% in 2013 however, such a Chinese "hard landing" would have serious implications for the gold price, says a report from Société Générale.

The Bank of England meantime left its key interest rate at 0.5% for the 46th month running, and kept its money-creation "asset purchase" scheme at £375 billion ($600bn).

Speaking later on Thursday, the European Central Bank was also expected to leave its monetary policy unchanged, two days after the European Union warned of a worsening mismatch between skills and jobs, most "notably in Southern Europe".

There "the risk of poverty or exclusion is [also] constantly growing," said a separate EU report. Greek and Spanish unemployment now both stand above 26% according to Tuesday's Eurostat release.

About the Author
Adrian Ash

Adrian Ash runs the research desk at BullionVault. Formerly head of editorial at Fleet Street Publications – London's top publisher of financial advice for private investors – he was City correspondent for The Daily Reckoning from 2003 to 2008, and is now a regular contributor to a number of investment websites.

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