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Gold Prices Rise Strong Through $1610/Oz as a Breakdown in London Fixing Drives Volatility and Concerning PMI Data Increases Risk-Aversion

Good morning, traders. An unusual Tuesday drop-in today, as the volatile moves we’ve seen in the gold market this morning warrant some discussion. Gold prices are trading with strength near well above $1600/oz, a key recovery level and a line of major psychological “round number” resistance. While the yellow metal, along with silver, had been moving steadily higher since yesterday afternoon and through the overnight trading session, a functional breakdown of one of gold’s traditional pricing mechanisms led to prices swinging wildly in the early morning hours and powering as high as $1625 in the spot markets before reeling back.

Key Takeaways

  • Gold and silver prices gapped briefly higher early this morning reportedly because of a breakdown in the LBMA gold fix, a traditional process for setting the spot prices of bullion in the London market.
  • Prices had already been trading steadily higher through the Tuesday sessions in Asia and Europe, as gold benefited from continued flight from risk through a constant stream of concerning PMI reports around the world.
  • Gold price is also being given some room to move higher thanks to a strong rebound in global equities, suggesting that we’re seeing the end of strong liquidation pressure which has weighed on gold in recent weeks.

A Busted Fix

Thanks to the modernization of global trading as well as a handful of manipulation scandals over the last several years, the LBMA gold price fixing isn’t the market force that it once was back when my first job as a trader was to focus each early morning on trading the auction. However, it’s remained a key tool for pricing bullion with London-based investors and institutions and so it can certainly still impact the overall market.

Gold prices saw a wild burst of volatility this morning following the usual time of the LBMA gold and silver price fixes. The surge-and-swing saw gold prices, which had been trading just above $1600/oz, spike to $1625 in the spot markets while silver rose above $14/oz. The sudden burst saw both metals’ likely hitting market stops and certainly over-extending a bit; both would correct lower shortly after the spike, with gold settling at $1600 and silver at $14.

Reports say that this flurry of market activity was driven by investors’ concerns that the LBMA gold fix, possibly affected in some way by the UK government’s order for citizen’s to stay in place, had broken down and was generating “unreliable” pricing, spurring some large-scale investors to make purchases instead in the COMEX futures market.

While it’s important to say that these reports still remain unconfirmed, the timing and sheer velocity of the whips certainly suggest that issues with the LBMA auction were involved. Mid-morning, we have also seen similar action from gold, albeit on a smaller scale, following the LBMA’s second gold fix of the day, further supporting the theory. Looking ahead, it’s now very possible that there will be added scrutiny on tomorrow’s fixings as a result.

Crashing PMI Data in Developed Markets Drives Risk-Aversion—and Gold Buying—Higher

Gold prices were trading at $1600/oz prior to this morning’s frenetics, driven steadily higher through safe haven buying. The consistent catalyst for this has been a wash of deeply concerning PMI reports on economic activity in the world’s developed markets.

The EuroZone’s PMI data arrived in the earliest morning hours, broadly as dour as expected although the German manufacturing numbers were particularly concerning. Prior to that, Japanese PMI was deeply disappointing as it fell to a record low of 32.7. Activity data for the UK was also worse than expected, even though the island nation has only recently begun enacting the preventative restrictions that other governments are using to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Not to be left out, following the rush of gold trading activity and the open of US equity markets, Markit’s PMI composite data for American industries also showed worrisome deteriorations, falling to 40.5 with a service sector specific print of 39.1.

Of course, we’ve been seeing a constant torrent of bad news and ugly economic data for weeks now while gold has languished and best (and collapsed at worst.) What’s different.

Gold Price is Being Given Important Room to Run

The vital change today has been a strong and strengthening rally in global equity prices. Boosted by yesterday’s announcement of theoretically unlimited monetary policy support from the Federal Reserve, global stocks have been in the green for most of Tuesday’s book of business. The major benchmark stock indices for Asian and Europe were both showing gains around 5%. US stocks are also making significant gains today, with the S&P 500 and the Dow bot up more than 7.5% at the time of writing, as markets remain hopeful that a stronger slug of fiscal stimulus is still imminent.

This has been serving gold prices by alleviating the crushing liquidation pressure that has been holding the yellow metal down as margin calls have forced investors to convert valuable positions into US Dollars. It remains to be seen if gold can maintain its momentum, should the weight of bad news and poor economic data force equity prices lower again, but for now gold is making the most of its opportunity to reestablish support and strength above $1600/oz.