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Portfolio > Alternative Investments

Gold’s 2013 Retreat Likely to Continue in New Year

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Gold’s bull run lost steam in 2013 because of persistently low inflation, an improving global economy, surging stock prices and, in December, the Federal Reserve’s announcement of the phase-out of the U.S. monetary stimulus program.

Currently trading at $1,200 a troy ounce, the precious metal’s value fell by more than a quarter this year, and as of Dec. 27 looks certain to record its first price fall in 13 years, according to the Financial Times.

The tumble in the gold price from $1,670 an ounce at the end of 2012 was largely the result of a sell-off by western investors in gold ETFs. Holdings in the 14 biggest funds plummeted by 31% from record levels last year, the FT reported, citing Bloomberg data.

The year-on-year decrease was the first since the funds began trading a decade ago. Assets in the SPDR Gold Trust, the biggest gold fund, dropped to their lowest level in nearly five years.

“Gold bugs” should not expect a fast rebound, the FT said.

Philip Klapwijk, managing director of the Hong Kong consultancy Precious Metals Insights, predicted that gold would trade in a range between $1,050 and $1,400 in 2014, with an average price $1,170 an ounce.

An analyst at Futures magazine used the options market to calculate how big of a move market makers have priced into options.

With April options implying a move higher or lower of $90 by expiration, he calculated an upside and downside target of $1,305 and $1,125.

James Steel, an HSBC analyst, told the FT that interest in gold from western investors is likely to remain weak into 2014, owing to the Fed’s tapering, which could result in a stronger dollar and send bullion prices lower.

Sagging demand for gold bars, coins and jewelry, mainly by countries in the east, will also push prices down, the FT said. The Indian market, the world’s largest consumer of bullion, was hurt in 2013 because of new tariffs imposed by New Delhi on gold imports. Weak sales in India are likely to continue absent a policy change.

Chinese demand has provided a bright spot in 2013, with purchases of gold jewelry up by more than one-third through September compared with the same period in 2012, the story said, citing the World Gold Council.

“White-hot demand from China will continue, though possibly not at levels that we have seen this year,” Steel told the FT.


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