INTERNATIONAL. Spot market gold prices jumped to US$1,669 per ounce ahead of Monday's US trading, broadly in line with where they ended last week, though they remained below the Asian session peak touched briefly following the release of positive Chinese manufacturing data.
"Gold [is] still respecting the long-term uptrend," says the latest technical analysis note from bullion bank Scotia Mocatta.
Silver bullion prices hovered around US$32.50 per ounce – 0.5% up on Friday's close – while stocks failed to hold onto early gains.
Commodities were broadly flat and US Treasuries ticked higher.
Physical precious metals markets reported quiet activity Monday morning, with Chinese markets closed until Thursday for the Qingming Festival and Indian jewelry dealers still on strike.
"There is no business in gold and silver," Kumar Jain, vice president of the Mumbai Jewellers' Association, which covers ten thousand jewelers, told Reuters.
"The whole value chain has shut."
Imports of gold bullion by India, the world's largest gold consumer last year, fell by 55% last month, according to Bombay Bullion Association president Prithviraj Kothari, as jewelers shut their shops following an announcement by India's government that they were doubling the duty on gold imports and taxing gold jewelry sales.
"Sales have dipped drastically as almost 80% to 90% of the jewelers have joined the protest against duty hike," says Kothari.
In New York meantime, the net long position of so-called speculative gold futures and options traders on the Comex – measured as the difference between bullish and bearish contracts – rose 15% in the week ended last Tuesday, according to data released at the end of last week's trading by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Open interest however hit its lowest level this year on a Tuesday – the day of the week for which the CFTC publishes its Commitments of Traders reports. Data from CME Group show it fell further towards the end of last week.
"Gold [lacks] sufficient investment enthusiasm to be able to sideline the physical market as it did earlier in the year," says a note from Barclays.
"Prices are struggling to gain momentum."
"Recently prices have been driven strongly by speculative sentiment and it is not surprising to see those pullbacks," adds Eugen Weinberg, head of commodities research at Commerzbank.
"But in the longer term, we still stay very confident that the upward trend in gold is still very constructive...I think in the longer term, gold will perform even more like a currency, and be less dependent on the jewelry sector."
Here in Europe, Eurozone finance ministers agreed Friday to allow the roughly €300 billion already committed from the temporary bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, to run alongside the €500 billion European Stability Mechanism, the permanent bailout vehicle due to become operational in July.
However, uncommitted funds from the €440 billion EFSF will not be available once the ESM comes in, capping the amount available for new rescues at €500 billion.
European leaders were told at February's G20 meeting that they needed to do more to solve the Eurozone crisis before they asked for extra money from the International Monetary Fund.
"Europe has done its part," said French finance minister Francois Baroin after Friday's talks. The IMF is due to meet on April 20.
Some European banks meantime are planning to repay loans from the European Central Bank's longer term refinancing operations two years early to avoid needing to raise money at the same time as many other banks, the Financial Times reports.
Banks borrowed over €1 trillion at the two LTROs in December and February.
Elsewhere in Europe, Eurozone manufacturing activity continued to fall last month – and at a faster rate than February – according to purchasing managers index figures released Monday.
Eurozone manufacturing PMI fell from 49.0 in February to 47.7 in March, with a figure below 50.0 indicating sector contraction. The unemployment rate in the Eurozone meantime rose to 10.8% last month, up from 10.7% in January, official data showed Monday.
In Germany, manufacturing PMI fell from 50.2 in February to 48.4 last month
By contrast, the latest data show the UK's manufacturing sector continued to grow last month, with March's PMI reported as 52.1, up from 51.5 in February.
China also reported accelerating growth in its manufacturing sector, with March's official PMI reading 53.1, up from 51.0 the previous month.
"Keep in mind that in March the official PMI always rises 3 percentage points from its February level," says Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist at Nomura.
"Compared to the past, the official average PMI is about 56, whereas this month, it`s only 53. It's still very much lower."
Economists at Societe Generale however counter that even adjusting for seasonality, China's PMI remain above 50, while "the 'seasonality' this March was not especially large relative to the same month in previous years," adds SocGen interest rate strategist Christian Carrillo.
Over in the US, the first three months of 2012 saw the US Mint record its lowest first quarter sales figures for gold coins in four years.
Editor of Gold News, the analysis and investment research site from world-leading gold ownership service BullionVault, Ben Traynor was formerly editor of the Fleet Street Letter, the UK's longest-running investment letter. A Cambridge economics graduate, he is a professional writer and editor with a specialist interest in monetary economics.
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