Seekers of financial safe havens amid the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East have once again taken refuge in gold, driving the price per ounce over $1,400 for the first time in almost seven weeks.
Reuters reported that Monday saw gold prices hit levels they have not seen since Jan. 19 (for euro-priced gold) and Jan. 14 (for sterling-priced gold) as turmoil spreads across the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Daniel Major, an analyst at RBS Global Banking & Markets, said in the report, “There is no doubt that the recent move higher across the precious metals reflects a degree of safe-haven buying as a result of the unrest in the Middle East.”
He went on to say, “If [buying] is not through the exchange-traded funds [ETFs]or a clear change in the net long on Comex, it is most likely to be through the physical market—coin and small bar buying, and I potentially wouldn't rule out larger purchases by high-net-worth individuals on the back of the unrest we're seeing,” and added, “That has clearly been a game-changer in the last couple of weeks for gold and silver after what was quite a lethargic start to the year in terms of identifiable investment demand in the exchange-traded funds.”
New York's SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold ETF, saw its holdings fall to a nine-month low of 1,233.098 tons even as prices rose.
Other precious metals’ prices responded to the unrest as well, with silver hitting a 31-year high and palladium a 10-year high. The number of ounces of silver required to buy an ounce of gold fell to nearly a 13-year low, at approximately 42, as silver outperformed gold. Platinum hit $1,844.25 per ounce against $1,833.50.
Morgan Stanley said in a statement, “Precious metals continued to recover as civil unrest intensified in the MENA region, with silver touching levels not seen since the peak of the Hunt Brothers squeeze in 1979/80.” The statement continued, “We expect the combination of continued strength in investment demand and a sustained industrial demand recovery will support silver ... this year before easing amid improved economic conditions in 2012.”