Assets in the world’s biggest gold-backed exchange-traded product slumped to the lowest since the start of the financial crisis as equities rallied and investors prepared for the onset of higher U.S. interest rates, hurting demand.
Holdings in the SPDR Gold Trust dropped 0.2 percent to 704.22 metric tons on Wednesday, the lowest level since September 2008. That’s the month that Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed, spurring a rout across global markets. Since peaking in December 2012, they’ve contracted 48 percent.
Gold prices have been trapped in a bear market as the U.S. economy’s recovery from the crisis sent equity markets surging and cut demand for haven assets. Purchases of American Eagle gold coins from the U.S. Mint had the weakest May in eight years and Perth Mint’s sales were the lowest since 2012. World equities climbed in 2015 as U.S. stocks reached a record and the main gauge in China more than doubled in 12 months.
“Demand is terrible,” said David Lennox, a resource analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney. “We see no real joy coming out of the physical market for gold. Speculators got hammered a couple of years ago and they’re not going to come back in a hurry.”
After Lehman’s bankruptcy, the world’s central banks unleashed unprecedented stimulus, sending gold to a record in September 2011 on bets that inflation would accelerate. Instead, consumer costs stayed stable, and the precious metal fell in 2013 and 2014. Prices are little changed this year amid bets the Federal Reserve is getting closer to raising rates.
Gold for immediate delivery slid 0.5 percent at $1,179.67 an ounce at 10:46 a.m. in London, Bloomberg generic pricing shows. Bullion has lost 39 percent since rising to an all-time high of $1,921.17 in September 2011.
Total holdings in gold-backed ETPs dropped to 1,586.9 tons on Wednesday, the lowest since 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The hoard slumped 40 percent since reaching a record 2,632.5 tons in December 2012.
Not everyone is selling. Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson maintained his holding in the SPDR for seven straight quarters through March 31, according to a filing last month. The 10.23 million share stake is the fund’s largest.
Higher rates diminish the appeal of bullion, since it doesn’t pay interest like competing assets, such as new bonds. The outlook for increasing borrowing costs has also driven gains in the dollar, reducing demand for precious metals. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index is 3.8 percent higher in 2015.
“There’s a mindset that higher interest rates translate into a higher dollar,” Frank McGhee, the head dealer at Alliance Financial LLC in Chicago, said in a telephone interview.“Even if it doesn’t, the higher interest rates you’re going to have are still going to put a lid on the upside for gold by damping inflation.”
Silver for immediate delivery fell 0.8 percent to $15.916 an ounce. Holdings in exchange-traded products backed by the metal rose for a seventh day, the longest stretch since 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg as of Wednesday. The 86.7 ton inflow was the largest in almost seven weeks.
Platinum fell 0.6 percent to $1,108.60 an ounce and palladium declined 0.6 percent to $740.80 an ounce.
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