Gold's London AM fix this morning was USD 1,727.00, EUR 1,302.22, and GBP 1,093.17 per ounce. Friday's AM fix was USD 1,715.50, EUR 1,295.21, and GBP 1,084.25 per ounce.
Cross Currency Table - (Bloomberg)
Gold opened in Asia nearly $13 higher at $1,734.90/oz (after closing at $1,719.60 on Friday) prior to giving up those gains and trading back near Friday's close at $1,720/oz in early Asian trade. It then gradually rose back to challenge the $1,734/oz level and is currently in the middle of the range between $1,720 and $1,735 (see chart below). Traders in Hong Kong say that the Chinese continue to buy gold on any weakness. Bullion buying from China and the rest of Asia (more below) may have led to the spike higher at the open in Asia.
Risk aversion has increased and stock markets have risen after Greece's parliament finally approved the austerity bill to secure a second set of loans from the IMF and EU. The move is likely to provide a temporary respite and stave off default and bankruptcy for a while longer. The debt deal and austerity measures were met with serious violence in the streets of Athens and elsewhere in the country, as it is deeply unpopular with the public and with much of the body politic.
The EU plans to meet Wednesday to give the final seal of approval on the 130 billion euro bailout. Gold fell by nearly 0.4% last week - its second marginal weekly fall. This is negative technically but healthy for the gold market as gold appears to be consolidating after the sharp 20% gains seen in January.
Gold Spot $/oz - 2 Days (Bloomberg)
"The Chinese guys are still buying. Whenever there is a dip in prices, they will buy. There's no change in their attitude," said a physical dealer in Hong Kong, who trades gold bars. "They are still buying today, because I think the downside is limited for the time being. Sentiment has improved a little bit.''
Market focus tends to be almost solely on Chinese and Indian demand but demand is broad based throughout increasingly important Asian gold markets. Demand for gold remains robust in most Asian countries where consumers are buying gold as a store of wealth due to concerns about their local paper currency. This phenomenon is happening throughout Asia including in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam and other large Asian countries (see news below regarding demand for gold by investors in Thailand).
AFP have a very interesting article on Vietnamese 'gold fever' which recounts how "stashing gold at home rather than having cash in the bank is a generations-old habit in communist Vietnam". And old habits are dying hard even if an ounce of gold bullion can now cost up to US $100 more in Hanoi than anywhere else in the world due to government meddling in the gold market. AFP quote 60-year-old retiree Truong Van Hue "I still like to keep my savings in gold. It's safe for retired people like me. I can sell the gold any time, anywhere, when I need cash," he told AFP.
Although the treasure has long been perceived as a safe haven, the recent gold rush has alarmed Vietnam's government, which is faced with an 18 percent inflation rate and an unstable national currency, the dong.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.