Gold Bullion prices started the week strongly, climbing to $1663 per ounce Monday morning London time – 2.4% up on Friday's close – while stocks and commodities fell and government bonds gained after news that Greece's second bailout agreed less than three months ago is unlikely to be enough.
Silver Bullion prices also rose, climbing to $31.43 per ounce – 4.9% above where they ended last week.
"Surprisingly gold and silver has been rallying in a very thin market," said one Hong Kong bullion dealer this morning.
"If there is no more fund liquidation in the beginning of a new quarter, and given that doomsday is just a few weeks from us, is the safe haven property of precious metals back in fashion again?"
The net long position of bullish minus bearish contracts held by noncommercial – so-called speculative – Gold Futures and options traders on New York's Comex exchange fell by more than 20% in the week ended September 27, according to data published Friday by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Speculative net longs fell to 158,754 100-ounce contracts – the lowest level since May 2009, and equivalent to 494 tonnes of Gold Bullion – as the number of short positions rose while long positions decreased.
"The continuation of the decline in speculative longs indicates the increased caution with which participants are approaching the gold market," says Marc Ground, commodities strategist at Standard Bank.
"Taken together with the increase in speculative shorts – which are currently at relatively high levels – gold appears to have returned to the vulnerability of several weeks ago."
As a percentage of all open interest, speculative net longs fell to 19.2% – the lowest level since the week ended 18 November 2008, when the figure was 12.3%. The price of Gold Bullion at the PM London Fix that day was $738 per ounce – it has not been lower since.
The gross tonnage of gold held to back shares in the SPDR Gold Trust (ticker GLD) – the world's largest Gold ETF – also fell last week, following a sharp rise that started towards the end of August.
The GLD held just under 1232 tonnes of gold on Friday – down from 1252 tonnes a week before.
"The continued mix of default fears and economic slowdown are likely to trigger further pockets of cash generating long liquidation," warns a note from Swiss Gold Bullion refiner MKS.
Despite the outflows, Friday's GLD holdings were less than one tonne below the amount held on 6 September, the day the Gold Price hit its all-time intraday high of $1920 per ounce.
"To be clear, physical demand right now is not just decent, it is exceptionally strong," noted UBS precious metals strategist Edel Tully last week.
The CFTC data also show a sharp drop in speculative net long silver positions – together with a corresponding fall in net short positions held by commercial traders (including miners, refiners and bullion banks) who take the other side of that trade.
In Europe meantime, the Greek government announced Sunday that it expects to miss deficit targets agreed earlier this year with its 'troika' of creditors – the European Central Bank, European Union and International Monetary Fund – despite announcing fresh austerity measures.
Greece now expects its deficit is to be 8.5% for 2011 – compared to the 7.6% forecast on which a second bailout worth €109 billion was agreed in July.
"Greece is bankrupt," says Michael Fuchs, deputy parliamentary floor leader for Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party.
"Probably there is no other way for us other than to accept at least a 50% forgiveness of its debts."
Private sector banks agreed in July to accept a 21% write-down in the value of their Greek debt holdings.
"I am warning in the most forceful way against any material revision [of July's agreement]," said Deutsche Bank chairman Josef Ackermann on Sunday.
Ackerman is also head of the International Institute of Finance, which agreed the terms under which private creditors would undertake a bond swap.
"If we reopen the voluntary accord of July 21, we will not only lose precious time but quite possibly also private investor support...the impact of such a move will be incalculable."
Over in China meantime – the world's second-largest source of private Gold Bullion demand – manufacturing growth accelerated in September, according to official data published Saturday.
China's purchasing managers index (manufacturing) rose to 51.2 – up from 50.9 for August (a figure above 50 indicates sector expansion).
Here in Europe, data published today show German manufacturing grew slightly last month, with PMI rising to 50.3 from 50.0 last month.
For the Eurozone as a whole, however, manufacturing activity continued to contract, with the PMI coming in at 48.5 – down from 49.0 in August. Here in the UK, manufacturing PMI rose to 51.1 – up from 49.4 for August.
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