Gold and silver inflows dominated in a week of political volatility……
Profit-taking follows rise in oil prices.
Investors appeared to sell diversified commodity baskets as volatility intensified.
A rally in gold and silver prices piqued investor interest in precious metal ETPs. A 2.8% rise in gold prices and a 0.3% rally in silver prices last week aided inflows into precious metal ETPs. Silver saw a second consecutive week of inflows of US$8.3mn. Gold inflows of US$22.5mn reversed most of the prior week’s outflows. Gold prices started rallying mid-week when the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC) released it latest policy statement and projections. The market interpreted the Fed’s position as dovish, as the median forecast for end of year rates had not changed. The US Dollar basket declined by 0.65% on the day of the release of the statement, providing a tailwind for precious metal prices.
Although we think the market generally missed the fact the dispersion of dots in the ‘dot plot’ (the map of the FOMC participant’s views on where policy rates will end the year), shifted significantly from December 2017, with an equal number of participants now expecting four rate hikes in total this year as those expecting three. It will likely only take a small nudge to get more Fed participants to expect higher rates. Gold rallied harder towards the end of the week as its haven quality came into focus due to fears of a trade war intensifying. On Thursday, the Trump Administration announced it will imposing tariffs on Chinese imports.
Details are vague, but the Administration is expected to offer further information in the next 15 days. Up to US$60bn in annual imports from China are targeted with a 25% tariff. The Chinese response so far has been limited, with the Ministry of Commerce only announcing a reciprocal tariff on 128 US products accounting for US$3bn in imports. However, that does not preclude further action. The market fears that this could escalate into a full blown trade war. Also on Thursday, former United Nations ambassador John Bolton joined the Trump Administration, replacing H.R. McMaster as national security adviser. He is seen a policy hawk, who will take a tough stance on Iran and North Korea. Bolton believes that the current Iranian nuclear deal is irreconcilable. Having such a hawk as an advisor to the President appears to have raised the geopolitical premium in gold price.
Political volatility drove US$65mn out of diversified commodity baskets as investors considered de-risking and taking profit on earlier gains. That outflow reversed all of the inflows from the prior two weeks and was the largest outflow since June 2017. However, some investors saw last week’s price capitulation in cyclicals assets as a buying opportunity. For example there were US$10.6mn inflows into copper ETPs as the price of copper fell 3.7%. That was the highest inflow in seven weeks.
Oil prices rallied 5.5%, driving profit-taking from crude oil ETPs. An unexpected draw on inventory ignited oil prices mid-week, and then the instalment of an Iran-hawk into the Trump Administration sent prices substantially higher as a geopolitical premium entered the oil price. ETP investors continued to take profit, with US$90.4mn of withdrawals. That marked the highest outflow since November 2017. At the same time there were US$5.2mn of inflows into short crude oil ETPs, the highest since December 2017.