Gold Gains, ‘Cliff’ Avoided, Bigger Problems Remain

January 2, 2013 at 08:22

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Gold rebounded from intraday lows on Wednesday after the U.S. Congress finally passed a bill that avoids tax hikes and spending cuts worth $600 billion, but the temporary reprieve drew muted reaction from bullion investors in Asia.

Even though the world’s biggest economy will no longer go over the “fiscal cliff”, other bruising budget battles lie ahead in the next two months.

Gold ended up around 7 percent in 2012, the 12th straight year of gains for the precious metal in what is one of the longest bull runs ever for a commodity.

Spot gold struck a record of around $1,920 in September 2011, when a worsening debt crisis in Europe sparked a buying rush.

“Right now nobody really seems to be doing very much. Investors want to see how other markets react, equity markets in particular,” said Nick Trevethan, senior metals strategist at ANZ in Singapore.

“If we start to see a bit of a gain in equity markets, gold will probably follow suit. I suspect investors in this part of the world want to see how Europe and U.S. investors react,” he added.

Stocks hit a five month high in Asia and the dollar fell  as a last-minute deal ended the U.S. fiscal crisis which threatened to send the economy back into recession and roil world financial markets.

“In the first quarter of 2013, economic uncertainty on the outcome of the U.S. fiscal cliff, among other factors, warrants a defensive posture,” UBS said in its 2013 outlook.

“We therefore think gold and platinum are an outright buy at present levels as both metals have very low supply elasticity and are key beneficiaries of loose monetary policy,” the bank added.

“In the case of gold, we still target the level of $1,950 an ounce over the next three months, while we expect platinum to move to $1,800 an ounce over the same period.”

Platinum ended 2012 up around 10 percent, mainly driven by concerns about widespread miner strikes in top producer South Africa. Platinum is used as an auto catalyst.

Gold is traditionally an inflation hedge and a market that investors rush to in times of trouble, but the metal has lately behaved more like an industrial commodity – rising and falling with the stock market and sometimes even following the dollar.

Since many investors have both equities and gold in their portfolios, bullion also closely watches movements in stock markets.

“Whatever happens in Washington, we suspect gold will likely do better over the next few weeks as the colossal failure of political will to get America’s fiscal house in order should provide fodder for the gold bugs to bid prices higher,” said Edward Meir, metals analyst at brokerage INTL FCStone.

U.S. stocks are poised for gains to begin the year after the late passage of a bill to avoid the harsh tax hikes that would have hit most Americans and crimped economic growth.