Gold rebounds after worst annual retreat since 1981

Gold rallied from its worst year in more than three decades as a decline to a six-month low was seen spurring physical purchases, potentially prompting some investors to reverse bets on lower prices. Silver jumped.

Bullion for immediate delivery traded at $1 224.09 at 12:03 pm in Singapore from $1 205.65 on December 31, when prices sank to $1 182.27, the lowest level since June 28. Gold slumped 28% in 2013 for the biggest annual loss since 1981.

Gold halted a 12-year bull run as assets in bullion-backed exchange-traded products shrank for the first year since the first product was introduced in 2003. US data on December 31 showed consumer sentiment and home prices climbed, underscoring the confidence expressed by the Federal Reserve when it said it will slow bond purchases this month amid an improving economy.

"The Fed is out, that’s cleared, so with no incremental news flow on the monetary-policy front and shorts remaining elevated, we see some of that being squared and giving gold some temporary support," said Dominic Schnider, head of commodities research at UBS AG's wealth-management unit in Singapore. "It’s been technically difficult to break below $1 200, so it seems there is some genuine interest on the physical side."

While holdings in the 14 biggest bullion-backed ETPs tracked by Bloomberg contracted 33% in 2013, the US Mint sold 14% more American Eagle gold coins last year.

China premium
On the Shanghai Gold Exchange, the volume for bullion of 99.99% purity climbed to a one-week high of 13 144 kilograms on December 30, while the premium to take immediate delivery in China rose to $29.63 an ounce that day from an average of $18.71 last year.

"The market has been holding well above $1 200 and that’s driven by physical demand,” said Wallace Ng, a trader at Gensha Metals in Shanghai. "We saw very good physical demand from China in December, which is likely to continue as we head into the Lunar New Year." The Lunar New Year begins on January 31.

Fed officials said on December 18 that they will trim the bank’s monthly bond purchases to $75-billion from $85-billion. The central bank will probably reduce the purchases in $10-billion increments over the next seven meetings before ending the program in December 2014, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg on December 19.

Gold for February delivery added 1.7% to $1 222.70 an ounce on the Comex in New York in trading volume that was 106% above the 100-day average for this time, data compiled by Bloomberg showed. Short gold holdings gained 1.1% to a three-week high of 76 052 futures and options in the week ended December 24, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Short positions refer to bets on lower prices.

Silver for immediate delivery traded at $20.1429 an ounce from $19.4717 on December 31, when prices fell to $18.8266, the lowest level since July 8. Silver sank 36% last year, also the biggest annual loss since 1981. Platinum traded at $1 383.88 an ounce from $1 371 on December 31, when prices capped an 11% annual decline. Palladium was at $719.05 an ounce from $716.38 on December 31, extending a second yearly increase. – Bloomberg

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