Gold prices plummet $US100 after surge

There have been peaks and flat patches in global gold trading in the past three months. Pictured: gold bars at a gold house in Munich. Photo by Reuters.
There have been peaks and flat patches in global gold trading in the past three months. Pictured: gold bars at a gold house in Munich. Photo by Reuters.
Global gold prices have nose-dived almost $US100 ($NZ116.40) an ounce in the past three weeks, after a three-month surge to more than $US1380 in mid-March.

From mid-December's low of below $US1200 gold had steadily risen to more than $US1380, but had in recent weeks fallen and was trading around $US1300 on the New York exchange yesterday.

NZ Mint's head of bullion, Clare Goldworthy, said gold demand had been ''relatively bullish'' during the first three months of 2014, ''with a few flat patches thrown in''.

Craigs Investment Partners broker Peter McIntyre said with gold being a traditional hedge against inflation, and inflation being benign, including in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, investors could expect gold ''to pull back further''.

''The yellow metal needs a code red to get going, like the Ukraine [crisis], but global inflation is benign,'' he said.

He described the present price at $US1280-$US1300 as ''weak'', and while volatility was expected during the year, gold could fall to $US1200 during the year, and if it went below $US1200, ''then $US1000 could be in sight again'', he said.

Ms Goldworthy said in 2013 consumers generated exceptional levels of demand for gold, and while no single event was likely to affect the price, the Crimean crisis and threat of war did contribute to buying pressure, which eased towards the end of March, ''with prices coming back significantly''.

''With world unrest seemingly on the increase across several different levels, investors from all walks of life appear to be showing growing interest in precious metals, the argument being that gold and silver help preserve wealth in turbulent times,'' Ms Goldworthy said.

As a reaction to lower gold prices, some producers had suspended marginal mines, while others were actually increasing production to maintain revenue levels, he said, citing Reuters reports.

''There are suggestions higher-grade ore is being targeted, called high-grading, by some to keep marginal mines operational, perhaps at the expense of future production,'' she said.

In the face of rising production costs, Oceana Gold had restructured its New Zealand operations, cutting back its operational plans, laying off staff and signalling the possible mothballing next year of its Reefton mine , which employs about 260 people.

Ms Goldworthy said worldwide gold output would set a record this year and the slide in prices was unlikely to put a brake on the tonnage mined until 2015.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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