Investors dump risky assets amid renewed concerns about sovereign default risks in European countries. In Greece, although the government’s plan to reduce deficit received support from the European Commission, it is opposed by local unions, indicating difficulties in implementation of the measures.
There are signs that the worries have been spread to other European countries. Stocks and bonds in Spain, Portugal and Hungary plummet amid worries that the governments may not be able to fund the heavy debts.
The euro dives to 1.3849 against USD, a level not seen since July 2009. High-yield currencies, such as AUD and NZD, also plunge after releases of disappointing economic data.
Commodities weaken as the dollar strengthens. The benchmark contract for gold slides -0.8% to 1103 in European session, following a -0.5% dip on the previous day. In our opinion, gold should benefit in the long-run of sovereign risk concerns persist. In fact, other than these small European countries, the US and the UK are also bearing heavy budget deficits. Investors should later realize that USD is not a safe haven as the US is seeking to expand stimulus measures which will result in a bloated budget deficit of $1.6 trillion this year.
Released Tuesday, the weekly financial statement of the Eurosystem indicated one of the Eurosystem central banks purchased gold, contributing to 1M euro increase in gold and gold receivables reserve. At the same time, sales of gold were minimal (below 2 metric tons) since the start of the 3rd CBGA on September 27, indicating official demand for gold remains stable.
We continue to see capitals flowing into US PGM ETFs. As of February 2, physical holdings of platinum surged to 244.9K oz, up +14% from the prior week. Correspondingly palladium holdings were flat at 399.9K oz, possibly a pause after a 40 times increase since the launch of the ETF.
Investment in ETF helps tightening supply of the metals as it’s physically backed. According to Johnson Matthey’s estimates total platinum supply was 6055K oz while demand was 5915K oz in 2009. During the same period, platinum holdings in platinum ETFs was around 910K oz, around 15% of total supply and demand. For palladium, total supply and demand were 7175K oz and 6520K oz, respectively, in 2009. Total holdings in palladium of 1.3M oz represents 18% of supply and 20% demand last year.
Launch of PGM ETFs should not end here. Rather, it’s just the beginning of a new wave of PGM ETFs. In Japan, Osaka Securities Exchange will list an ETF tracking platinum futures contract, together with an ETF tracking gold futures, in mid February.
Despite slump in 2009, autocatalyst remains a major source of demand for PGMs. Anticipated recovery in auto sector should help tighten the market further. US auto sales surged +12% yoy in January to 10.78M units. Although Toyota’s recall crisis caused a plunge in its US sales to the lowest in 10 years, it should not have much impact on the overall outlook of auto market. China surpassed the US in terms of car sales and became the biggest auto market in 2009. Many auto giants expressed their interests in focusing on China, as well as other countries in Asia, this year. Industry experts forecast Chinese auto market will grow as much as 15% this year while Volkswagen, the largest car maker in Europe, announced plans to raise sales of cars, sport-utility vehicles and vans to 10M units in India and China this year.
Robust growth in auto sake also boosted fuel demand. In 2009, auto sales increased +46% yoy, triggering apparent demand for oil by +3.7%. According to China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) apparent oil demand may rise more than +5% to 427M metric tons in 2010, in which gasoline demand will surge +7.8% to 72.2M metric tons and diesel consumption will grow +7.7% to 149.7M metric tons.
Energy prices continue to fall. WTI crude oil price slips to 76.2 (-1%), while both of heating oil and gasoline prices are down -0.7%.