Business News of 2013-12-25

Gold prices face tough times in 2014

Gold will face a tough time in 2014 if the sentiment of investment analysts is anything to go by.

The gold prices should average US$1,200 per ounce over 2014, down from an earlier predicted US$1,325, precious metals analyst, Madam Joni Teves, wrote of UBS AG (VTX:UBSN) in a research recently.

By 2016 and 2017, prices will not enjoy much of a lift either, edging to US$1,250 per ounce in 2016 and only US$1,210 per ounce by 2017, UBS forecasts.

“The struggle for gold not only rests with the predominant selling interest among investors currently but with limited positive catalysts looking forward; gold is unlikely to regain its former appeal,” she wrote.

A substantially more upbeat global economy and bullish stock markets mean that safe but relatively boring investments like gold will suffer, the note said. This has already been the case in 2013, and only a “very substantial change” in the macro picture next year is likely to support gold, Madam Teves wrote.

“Gold has become old news, and investors are likely to be eagerly searching for new places to put their cash to work,” she added.

The eventual fall to US$1,200 per ounce from an open of US$1,220 per ounce in New York on December 3 will not involve a simple straight decline but will likely trace a turbulent path.

Impact on Ghana

With the country’s status as a major producer of the precious metal, a fall in prices in 2014 as predicted would have adverse effect on the revenues of mining companies and the country at large.

The country already suffered some revenue shortfalls in 2013 mainly as a result of consistent decline in prices of gold, which is currently the largest foreign exchange.

Data from the Bank of Ghana showed that receipts from exports of the metal in the first eight months in the year fell to US$3.67 billion from the US$4.28 billion realised the same period last year.

“The fall was as a result of both price and volume effects,” the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Seth Terkper, said in his 2014 Budget speech to Parliament.

The consistent fall in prices of the metal from some US$1,700 in the beginning of the year to US$1,200 in December has also caused some mining companies to lay off some of their staff in an attempt to cut cost.

Already, over 300 people have lost their jobs in the industry and mining giants such as Newmont, Ashanti Gold and AngloGold are contemplating sending home more people should the situation not normalise in 2014.

Therefore, should the current predictions fall through, indications are that the job losses in the industry, which employs some tens of thousands of people, would increase.

Revenues inflows from the sector into government will also fall, as it happened in 2013, and that could lead to a huge budget deficit as experienced this year and also last year.

Going forward

Analysts say gold prices could fluctuate widely, trading up and down for periods, as investors account for U.S. economic data, emerging market physical demand and investment fund outflows.

Eventually too, giant gold miners like Barrick Corp. (TSE:ABX) and gold producing countries like Ghana will have to take note, meaning that prices could eventually impact global gold production.

Potential support to gold, though, could come if the U.S. economy worsens significantly, or if there’s unusually severe political gridlock from Washington in the USA.

A string of weak US economic data could scare investors back into gold buying and lift prices as World Gold Council executives and precious metal retailers believed.

A more downbeat U.S. economy and weak employment could be gold's best bet.

Conversely, though, India is unlikely to strongly support gold in 2014, as it has in years past, thanks to government restrictions on gold imports.

The country, which closely competes with China as the world’s largest gold consumer, has tried to cut gold consumption to narrow trade deficits this year.

Gold prices so far

Gold fell to a four-month low on December 2, noted HSBC Holdings PLC (LON:HSBA) analyst, Mr James Steel.

Lagging US Mint gold coin sales, at least on a monthly basis, indicate weak US retail demand for gold, he added.

Still, the US Mint is set to solidly beat gold coin sales figures from last year.

More broadly, 2013 will likely be the second straight year where commodities as a whole are the worst-performing asset class for risk-adjusted returns, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Commodities include natural gas, oil and other metals besides gold and silver.