Prices to Buy Gold Hit 6-Wk High with "Technicals More Bullish", Banks "Hopeful" of Greek Debt Agreement

Dollar prices to Buy Gold hit a 6-week high at $1677 per ounce Monday morning, as stocks, commodities and the Euro all pushed higher and US Treasury bond prices fell.

"Near term technical have turned more bullish [for gold]," says the latest technical analysis from Scotia Mocatta, though it sees "psychological resistance looming at $1700."

The price of Buying Gold in Euros however fell to €41375 (€1287 per ounce) – down slightly on Friday's close – as European finance ministers met to discuss Greek debt and a proposal to relax banking rules.

The difference between long contracts to Buy Gold and short contracts held by noncommercial Gold Futures and options traders on New York's Comex exchange – the so-called speculative net long – rose for the second week running in the week ended last Tuesday, according to the latest data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

There was no change last week however in the volume of gold held to back shares in the SPDR Gold Trust (ticker: GLD), the world's largest gold ETF.

Silver meantime hit $32.82 per ounce Monday morning – 1.8% above Friday's close.

"Growing investor confidence is evident in [silver] ETF positioning," reports Standard Bank commodities strategist Marc Ground this morning, citing ETF purchases of 341.8 tonnes in the past week.

One London broker reported Friday that the Sprott Physical Silver Trust (ticker: PSLV) bought around 311 tonnes of silver last week. 

Shares in New York-listed PSLV meantime gapped lower at the start of Wednesday morning's trade, opening 9.4% down on the previous day's close – a result of "the instantaneous premium evaporation in PSLV," says Gene Arensberg of GotGoldReport, which had previously warned its readers that the shares' premium to PSLV's net asset value could disappear "at the drop of a hat."

"Ouch for the faithful PSLV buyers," says Arensberg, "and shame upon the managers of PSLV for allowing the premium to get so out of whack to the upside."

Eurozone finance ministers meantime met in Brussels on Monday, where they were expected to discuss the terms of Greek debt restructuring, with negotiations in Athens over recent days having failed to produce a deal.

"I remain quite hopeful [of reaching agreement]," Charles Dallara, managing director of the Institute of International Finance – which is negotiating on behalf of banks that hold Greek debt – said Sunday.

The IIF made an offer on Friday to accept voluntary private sector involvement that would amount to losses on Greek bonds of around 65-70%, according to press reports. Dallara described it as "the maximum offer consistent with a voluntary PSI deal".

A sticking point is the size of the coupon on new bonds that will be swapped for existing ones. Both sides were thought to be close to agreeing an annual rate of between 4% and 4.5%, newswire Bloomberg reported. 

Germany and the International Monetary Fund, however, want to see this cut to 3%, according to the New York Times, citing officials involved in the talks.

"I believe that the private sector can accept a lower coupon than the 4% average, but the question then is: will the PSI still be on a voluntary basis?" one senior Greek banker told newswire Reuters.

Any deal that is not voluntary risks triggering payments on credit default swaps – which payout in the event of default. Failure to agree debt restructuring meanwhile also risks jeopardizing Greece's second bailout – without which it will be unable to pay €14.5 billion of maturing bonds on March 20.

Also at today's Brussels meeting, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, along with his French opposite number Francois Baroin, will call for relaxation of banking rules, according to the Financial Times.

The pair will ask for elements of Basel III – the regulations on how much capital banks must hold, due to come into force in 2015 – to be loosened for banks that own insurance companies, such as French banks Societe Generale and Credit Agricole. They also propose a three-year delay for the deadline on disclosing leverage ratios – in contrast to UK regulators, who have called for disclosure ahead of schedule.

Baroin meantime has confirmed that France's proposed financial transaction tax – one of the issues that led to British prime minister David Cameron walking out of European Union talks in December – will not apply to government bonds.

The US Federal Reserve meantime could make the historic move of announcing a specific inflation target when it gives its interest rate decision on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

Also in the US, Newt Gingrich – who last week said the United States should consider returning to the gold standard – won South Carolina's Republican presidential primary on Saturday. One of his opponents, Mitt Romney, has subsequently bowed to calls to release his tax returns.

China has seen a "New Year's rush" to Buy Gold to mark the Year of the Dragon, which begins today, the FT reports.

"Some customers just walk in and buy a bunch of 100g gold bars all at once," it quotes one manager at Chinese bank ICBC.

"People like to give them away...companies come in too to Buy Gold bars for presents."

ICBC – the world's largest bank by stock market cap – announced last week that 2.33 million Chinese citizens use its gold accumulation program, which currently holds 22 tonnes of gold.

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