"The history of Eureka lies in its future." - Lambert Molinelli, 1878


The author/editor of the Eureka Miner owns common shares of local mining stocks, General Moly (GMO) and Newmont Mining (NEM); together with benchmark miner Freeport-McMoRan (FCX). Please do your own research, markets can turn on you faster than a feral cat.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Gold Touches $1,333 on Soaring Euro; A Beautiful Life Lost by Thomas Fire Mudslides

Josephine "Josie" Franceschini Gower (1948-2018)
Victim of Thomas Fire Mudslides

Friday, January 12, 2018 AM

Morning Miners,

It has been a sad week in Santa Barbara, California where Mariana and I have our second home. We received news yesterday that a good friend of ours had been tragically swept away by recent mudslides. This was the consequence of December's Thomas Fire and a powerful Pacific storm that unleashed horrific mud and debris on Montecito, California. The Thomas Fire is now counted as California's largest wildfire (282,000 acres).

Josephine "Josie" Franceschini Gower awoke very early Tuesday to a rumbling outside her two-story house. She went downstairs with a friend, opened the front door and vanished into a massive mud flow from San Ysidro Creek. Her friend was found alive outside pinned against a fence and a boulder. Her son, Hayden, relentlessly searched for his mother after the storm and her body was later recovered by search and rescue teams nearly a mile away.

Josie was the beloved niece of Fiorina Perocco. Mrs. Perocco lived to the age of 96 and passed in 2011, my neighbor of 30 years. Mariana and I first met Josie as she regularly visited  and affectionately cared for her aunt. I was the same age as Josie by a few months and Mariana and I looked forward to her visits. She was a very positive, humorous, carefree soul that loved riding her horse. She is survived by her two children, two grandchildren and a close knit community of Italian descendants in Santa Barbara.

Like the early pioneers of Eureka County, Fiorina Perocco's father Romano Minato first came to America to work in the mines. He came from the Alpine foothills of Fonte, Italy - a region common to some of Eureka's early Italian immigrants. Romano worked in a coal mine in Erath County, Texas in the early-twentieth century. Fiorina was born there, returned to Italy in 1921 with the family and then came to Santa Barbara after World War II. Her sister Mary Franceschini was Josie's mother.

She will be missed by all who knew her.

Josie's house on East Valley Road
Montecito, California

Gold Touches $1,333 on Soaring Euro

Currencies and interest rates are driving gold price and in a good way - Comex gold made a 4-month high earlier today touching $1,333.8 per ounce. On some positive news coming from Germany, the euro hit a 4-year high putting more pressure on the embattled U.S. dollar which descended to a 3.5-month low.  It is, however, a complex interplay between interest rates and weak dollar as I explain below in my input to the Kitco Weekly Gold Survey below.

Falling crypto-currencies also gave the yellow metal a boost - $1,350 per ounce gold may be in the cards in the next several weeks.

The 10-year Treasury benchmark yield popped up to 2.57% this morning as the 2-year tops 2% . The important link between the 10-year and gold and copper prices is explained in my latest Kitco column:


Here's our scorecard on where we stood for the last-half of 2017:

Intraday highs on the Comex futures exchange: 

Gold $1,362.4 per ounce September 8, 2017 (December 2018 contract)
Silver $18.290 per ounce September 8, 2017 (December 2018 contract)
Copper $3.3220 per pound ($7,186 per tonne) December 28, 2017 (March 2018 contract)

Comex copper is presently trading at $3.2345 per pound, only 2.6% below December's new high. Improving global growth has kept the red metal above the key $3 per pound level with an added boost from passage of Tax Reform and expectations for U.S. infrastructure spending. All eyes remain on China to see how growth prospects shape up. LME inventories are picking back up as we start a new year:

It is instructive to keep our eyes on the Comex inventories which now exceed the LME after moving higher in late-2017 (212,281 versus 203,750 tonnes)

And, again the chorus of our very tiresome molybdenum song,  "LME Moly Oxide remains on snooze alarm at $7.26 per pound. This is disappointingly short of $8 after climbing to $7.94 in May, 2107." 

My Input to Kitco News 

Here's how I saw the weekly price action as told to the Kitco News Weekly Gold Survey:

My vote is up. Target gold price $1,335 per ounce. Target Silver price $17.2 per ounce.

There are many cross-currents in the price moves of gold this week, the primary drivers are U.S interest rates and dollar weakness. 

Earlier this week it was rumored that China would slowdown or stop buying U.S. Treasurys. This caused jitters in the bond market giving gold a nice lift on a weakening the U.S. dollar and 10-year Treasury yield that bumped above 2.5% . Although China later claimed the story was "fake news," residual uncertainty maintained gold's gains.

This morning, positive news on Angela Merkel's new government drove the euro to a 4-year high. This put more pressure on the U.S. dollar to gold's advantage; Comex gold touched $1,333.8 per ounce. Finally, a hotter-than-expected core inflation number pushed the U.S. 2-year Treasury above 2% - the first time since the Financial Crisis. This move increased to 83% the probability the U.S. Federal Reserve would raise interest rates in March. A hawkish Fed and higher rates is a headwind for gold even though accelerating inflation could eventually become a tailwind. The net effect Friday, was a slight retreat below the $1,330-level.

I believe there is momentum now behind the 4-week uptrend with a good chance that the yellow metal will reach the $1,335-level next week or higher. Silver should follow gold to at least $17.2 per ounce.

On a weekly basis, gold posted a small gain relative to copper but lost ground to the broader Bloomberg Commodity Index (BCOM) and major currencies euro and Japanese yen [see table below for full summary]. Gold is still slipping in value, albeit not dramatically, to surging equities. Relative to the S&P 500, gold retreated only 0.8% [see last graph below, Chart to Watch].

Additional Note:

The fate of the Chinese yuan remains a key tell for gold and copper - a material drop in valuation could boost gold and depress copper prices. The yuan stabilized below 7 USD/CNY for 2017 and has been generally growing stronger. The yuan is stronger than last week at 6.4624 USD/CNY and is now only 0.4% above its 2017 low (i.e. its strongest level) of 6.4345. A 1-month yuan volatility of 0.74% is in the ballpark of major currency levels - a healthy sign for the Chinese currency (1-month volatilities of euro, yen and gold*).

* the euro & yen 1-month volatilites are  0.90% & 0.53% respectively; Comex gold 1-month volatility is a slightly elevated 1.98%.

Weekly Summary  for January 12, 2018 AM 

(click on table for larger size)

Yearly Summary for 2017

(click on table for larger size)

Comex gold gained nearly 14% for the year but was outpaced by Comex copper that enjoyed a 32% uptick in price. Comex silver lagged both for a  respectable 7.2% gain. Overall, gold gained 12% on the broader Bloomberg Commodity Index (BCOMTR:IND) which includes everything from crude oil to things that oink. In terms of major currencies, gold in terms of yen advanced almost 10% but slipped 0.4% relative to the strengthening euro.

Although gold slipped 5% in value relative to the S&P 500 it was not a bad year at all for the yellow metal!

Gold Price Outlook for 2018:

My revised gold range for 2017 was $1,250 to $1,400. We closed 2017 comfortably above $1,300 at $1,309.3 (February contract).

Let's assume 2018, like 2017, is a mix of buoyant market expectations and rising rates with occasional geopolitical, political and economic shocks. Gold will feel the headwinds of the former and enjoy price spikes in times of market stress. I believe this will secure a price floor in the $1,200 to $1,250 range with highs challenging but not exceeding the September Comex high of $1,366 per ounce.

2018 will prove a less bullish period for gold than this year unless interest rates are contained near present levels and copper prices fall - a less likely scenario given U.S. growth and synchronous global growth expectations. Inflation will be another key factor to monitor.

Here's a good beer bet for 2018: Gold will fall below $1,220 before rising above $1,380. We ended\ 2017 n the middle of that range with prices just above $1,300 - a fair starting point. 

Which side of this bet you take depends on whether you have a half-empty or half-full view on interest rate direction and economic prospects, both global and domestic.

Two important charts to watch remain the gold-to-S&P500 or AUSP (see "Chart to Watch" below) and gold in terms of major currencies euro and Japanese yen (directly below).

Click on the image for a larger size:

Gold in euro & yen terms with good margin above 2013 lows

Note for currency buffs: Value parity in the above chart occurs when the EUR/JPY cross rate is 139.24; something to watch for - presently 135.33 yen per euro, trending higher since late-October 2017. 

Chart to Watch

Here's a chart to watch for 2018. Click on the image for a larger size:

Gold-to-S&P 500 Ratio

An important gold ratio is gold-to-S&P500 or AUSP. The ratio bottomed in early-December of 2015 and reversed to a bullish trend, peaking February 11, 2016. It bottomed again December 20, 2016 trended higher but then bearishly bottomed again July 7, 2017 (0.4989) and more recently December, 12, 2017 (0.4661). Currently this AM the AUSP is 0.4783 - still bearishly below the key 0.5-level but sustaining margin from the mid-December low.


Colonel Possum & Mariana

Photos by Mariana Titus if not otherwise noted.

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