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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

World Gold Council Country Reports

Consumer demand trends in individual countries:
Asia/ India

• Overall consumer demand in India in the first quarter of 2006 declined by 27% to 145 tonnes. This was largely driven by the sensitivity of the Indian market toward price volatility.

• Jewellery demand reacted sharply to price volatility, falling 38% on the previous year which was an exceptionally strong performing quarter.

• Sentiment within India, in part aided by media commentary, became increasingly attuned to the belief that gold prices would continue to rise, thereby providing some support to consumer demand in the jewellery market. Demand during the key festival of Akshaya Thrithiya, on April 30, appears to have been higher than in 2005.

• Despite an overall decline in demand, net retail investment boomed, rising 32% on the same period in 2005, itself 90% higher than that of 2004. Two factors propelled this higher: increased promotion by banks following the success of earlier WGC-assisted campaigns; and the general belief that prices will continue to rise, whereby individuals are actively purchasing gold coins and small bars with the view of turning them into jewellery at a future date.

Saudi Arabia

• Saudi Arabia witnessed a stock market crash in February 2006, affecting both consumer sentimentand the purchasing power of high-income individuals for the first quarter. Against this background, the rising price of gold proved a heavy deterrent to jewellery purchases which dropped 30% on the previous year.

UAE and the Gulf

• Consumer demand in the UAE suffered heavily in the first quarter of 2006 as the country mourned the death of the Ruler of Dubai. The Dubai Shopping Festival, a key period for gold sales in the region, took place over this period and as a result was scaled down.

• The first quarter in Kuwait followed a broadly similar scenario whereby a mourning period for the death of the Emir in January, negatively impacted consumer demand for gold.

Turkey

• Turkish jewellery demand was 43% lower year-on-year, although again the comparison is with an exceptionally high quarter in 2005. The rise in gold price was the major cause; however its impact was exacerbated to a small extent by an 11% fall in tourist numbers.

• The rising price encouraged gold investment during the quarter, producing the second highest
quarter ever recorded for gold investment in Turkey.

Europe and United States

Europe

• In Italy, spending on luxury products, including jewellery, continues to be constrained by weak
employment growth and falling real wages.

• In the UK, purchases of all forms of jewellery remained subdued. Both in the UK and Italy it was clear that demand for higher quality, more fashionable and stylish pieces continued, while plainer mainstream items suffered.
www.gold.org

• There has been little change in the trend of European retail investment, with new buying offset by dishoarding and profit taking. Dishoarding from France, essentially younger people selling inherited gold, still dominates the overall picture.
U.S.A.

• While the US economy started the year in robust form, signs of emerging weakness resulted in
tighter consumer spending on luxury goods. Combined with the rising price of gold, this resulted in a 5% decrease in jewellery demand in tonnage terms on the same period in 2005. Nevertheless, this equates to a 23% increase in underlying gold value.

• In contrast to jewellery, buying of coins and small bars has been strong in the US, rising 41% above year-earlier levels.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Marino G. Pieterse Reports

Kitco Bullion Dealers commentator Marino G. Pieterse, made the following points, with respect to gold's current pricing and demand on May 29th:

"The World Gold Council (http://www.gold.org/) reported in its recently published update on supply and demand statistics with data for the first quarter of 2006 that sustained interest from different groups of institutional investors drove the gold price to new highs However, according to figures completed by GFMS (http://www.gfms.co.uk)/, the world's premier research institute on gold, total demand for gold at 835 tonnes was 16% lower than in the first quarter of 2005, primarily as a result a significant fall in jewellery demand particularly in Asia and the Middle East, This is according to my prediction in Goldletter's April-issue, when I pointed at the price sensitivity on demand as a result of increasing gold prices.

Gold jewellery demand, accounting for 52% of total demand, fell 22% (175 tonnes) to 531.4 tonnes from 706.8 tonnes in the first quarter of 2005, compared to 109 tonnes flowed into Exchange Traded Funds (ETF's). Although this was the largest quarterly increase in investment since the World Gold Council backed street TRACKS Gold Shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange at the end of 2004, also according to my expectations this demand was not strong enough to compensate fully for the decline in jewellery demand."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Summer Gold

The recently released figures compiled by GFMS Ltd. for the World Gold Council have revealed some interesting facts for gold's future outlook. The report released this week tied jewelry demand in Asia and the Middle East in particular, to the fall.

As far as ETFs are concerned, it said that "easy access ETFs provide investors to the asset. But the most prominent aspect of the report revealed that the "most significant finding in the report is the fact that investment demand is surging ahead and that gold is reassuring its monetary value and is reganing respect among Western investors and institutions alike," says Jon Nadler, investment products analysts for Kitco.com.

Nadler says gold is making a come back at the moment. But the question remains, after the recent sell off and correction, will that price reach the 800 mark as predicted, by the end of this year? Investors wait and watch as the summer unfolds and the upcoming months set the track for the final length.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Who Is Buying Gold?

Kitco analyst Roger Wiegand, discusses global gold markets, reflecting that, "China, India, Japan and in greater amounts the Middle Eastern oil barons, are all prolific gold buyers. Several We heard of a report last week which was not verifiable, that only about 1% of the general markets buying public is invested in gold or gold stocks. We know the number is low but cannot be certain it is that low at this time. Nevertheless, investment reports and market-chart behavior indicate most retail street investors are thinking buy and hold forever while watching their mutual funds go into the dumpster."

Wiegand furthers that, "Central banks were dumping gold with both hands at $250-$450 and now are closet buyers. Those with the opportunity to sell more under the international gold selling agreements are holding back not selling their quotas or prearranged amounts."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Profile: Mining in South America




According to an MBendi, South America Mining Report, "South America still attracts the most exploration dollars in the world – 27% of global gold exploration and 38% of base metals. Argentina has seen a constant reduction in exploration expenditure since 1997, with expenditure in 2000 totalling $110 million ($130 million in 1998).The floating of the Brazilian currency on world markets resulted in a collapse against the US dollar of up to 40%."

The president of Bolivian owned energy company Petrobas, is reported to have scheduled talks with Brazil- as bilateral agreements were discussed with Brazilian Energy Minister Silas Rondeau.

The heat is turning up in South America, as countries, but US commercial agreements with Latin American countries on an individual level, could be serving to undermine a goal of political and economic integration. Chile, Peru, Colombia and Central America are all tops on the list of countries with whom the US has signed free trade deals, while Uruguay and Paraguay could be next.

Is real integration for South America merely a pipe dream or is this idea worthy of merit?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mining in Bolivia Faces Uncertain Times Ahead

Bolivia's mining sector could be in for a shake up as the government is reported to be placing control over mining, forestry as well as other areas in the countries economy. President Evo Morales is said to be nationalizing natural gas.

Morales is reported to have said that this movement around natural gas, "was just the beginning, because tomorrow it will be the mines, the forest resources and the land." Higher taxes and royalty payments are on the agenda for existing properties, in an attempt to spread the wealth in Bolivia's mining sector.

Bolivia, a country with a rich history of struggle over control of precious metals, has faced competing interests since the Spaniards discovered silver in 1544. According to a Country Report, "From 1557 to 1985, the mining industry dominated the Bolivian economy. By 1985, however, the production of every significant mineral in the country had failed to exceed the output registered in 1975."

According to the same report, In order to capture gold as a reserve for the Central Bank, in 1988 the government offered a 5 percent bonus over the international price of gold on local sales to the Central Bank. Gold was mined almost exclusively by over 300 cooperatives throughout the country, along with about 10,000 prospectors. "

Mining cooperatives ended up requesting additional land from the government, in order to explore prospects. It was said that, "Government policy favored augmenting gold reserves as a means of leveraging more external finance for development projects. "

However, at the moment, government policy tows a different party line as it sets a course for redistributing the wealth of a nation. This trend in post-colonial societies who have the political means of staving off outside influence, is see other places in the world such as Zimbabwe, where the government has set out to reallocate control over its land, making a point of shirking off a history of British rule. What this often means however, is that countries in the midst of implementing this kind of change, face a high price as trading partners begin to diminish and the country is left with little in the bank, in terms of foreign currency.

What's next for Bolivia? How will Spain and Brazil react to the news of the country's reforms? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Gold: A Running Commentary

The situation in Iran continues to aid in speculation over what will happen in the commodities market. Gold is safe and in a time when Bloomberg reports, "Yesterday, Iran asked the United Nations to take urgent action against the U.S. for what it describes as a threat to attack its nuclear facilities. "

Since January, uncertainty has been rising along with the price of the metal, valued around the wrold for various purposes. Overall, however, gold is the old standby during moments of political unreset.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, "From the end of World War II through 1983, domestic mine production of gold did not exceed 2 million ounces annually. Since 1985, annual production has risen by 1 million to 1.5 million ounces every year. By the end of 1989, the cumulative output from deposits in the United States since 1792 reached 363 million ounces. "

The IMF has stated that their current gold holdings, "are valued on its balance sheet at SDR 5.9 billion (about $9 billion) on the basis of historical cost. As of March 31, 2006, the IMF's holdings amounted to $60 billion (at then current market prices). "

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