Who is the Mystery Gold Buyer?
Comment of the Day

January 10 2023

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Who is the Mystery Gold Buyer?

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The rally in gold prices over the past two months has defied analyst expectations for continued weakness, including TD Securities'. Yet, we see little evidence that the rise in gold prices is associated with a changing macro narrative. Given the bearish macro backdrop, speculative interest in gold has remained exceptionally lackluster as the world barrels towards a recession, especially after accounting for recent shifts in CTA positioning. Still, gold prices have continued to firm, retracing more than 50% of their significant drawdown from 2022 highs. • This begs the question: who in the world is this mystery buyer driving prices higher? Armed with a flows-based approach, we present strong evidence that behemoth Chinese and official sector purchases may have single-handedly catalyzed a $150/oz mispricing in gold markets. What is less clear is what has driven these massive purchases. • We investigate whether a sanctions-evasion war chest associated a potential invasion of Taiwan, China's reserve currency ambitions, massive pent-up demand associated with the Chinese reopening, or Chinese New Year demand could be consistent with this extreme buying activity. Chinese demand appears unrelenting for the time being, but barring a grandiose geopolitical regime change, we find that it would likely subside towards normal levels in coming months. This would leave gold prices vulnerable to a steep consolidation lower, given gold's lack of alternative buyers and its current mispricing relative to its recent historical relationship with real rates. We turn to our tracking of positioning for the top ten gold traders in China to scour for nascent signs of peaking Chinese demand, which could present a tactical signal for a noteworthy repricing lower.

Eoin Treacy's view

Since China is the world’s largest gold producer it begs the question why they would be buying on the international market in size. There is the potential that they wish to lend credence to the Renminbi as a reserve asset in order to sway Middle Eastern governments to accept it in payment for oil.

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