When It Comes to Gold, Stick to the Facts

Gold dipped below $1,600, falling to a six-month low. There has been a growing debate over Japan's move to devalue its currency to stimulate growth. A gold investor in Japan was likely ecstatic with his gold trade over the past few weeks.

By Frank Holmes
Wednesday February 20, 2013 13:36
Kitco

Gold dipped below $1,600 last week, falling to a six-month low, much to the chagrin of gold investors. I find the timing of the correction peculiar, given the G20 Finance Ministers Meeting taking place over the weekend. There’s been a growing debate over Japan’s move to devalue its currency to stimulate growth, with reaction from the G-7 leaders stating that “domestic economic policies must not be used to target currencies,” reports Reuters.

While the G-7 tried to legitimize the currency debasement with this statement, in reality, investors seem to be able to see through to the real motivations.

The main reason the mainstream media gave for the correction in the yellow metal is hedge funds’ selling of gold late last year. According to quarterly filings, Hedge Fund Manager George Soros sold half of his holdings in the SPDR Gold Trust ETF (GLD) in the fourth quarter of 2012. Bloomberg attributed the sell as a move that may “bolster speculation that gold’s 12-year bull-run is coming to the end.” However, Soros may have liquidated his gold holdings because he identified a significant short-term opportunity in the currency markets.

I have said many times that government policies are precursors to change, and late last year, Japan’s new leader, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, openly indicated his intention to drive down the currency to make the economy more competitive and increase inflation. As a result of Japan’s policy changes, the yen weakened, driving up the price of gold in Japan’s local currency.

In other words, a gold investor in Japan was likely ecstatic with his gold trade over the past few months.

Take a look at the comparison of gold’s return in different currencies. The chart below compares the percentage change of gold in the Japanese yen to the metal’s percentage change in U.S. dollar terms over the last six months. From the middle of August 2012 until about November, gold prices in both currencies closely followed each other.

However, as a result of changes in government policies, over the six-month period, gold rose nearly 19 percent in yen, while only increasing less than one percent in U.S. dollar terms.

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