Gold and silver rallied over 1% and 2% yesterday as stock markets barely made gains in the US. Asian stock markets were mixed but the Nikkei fell 2.5% and most European markets are showing weakness again this morning and gold remains firm.

Demand for gold remains extremely robust with broad based demand from both retail and pension investors but also now from very large players such as high net worth individuals, hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds (Government of Singapore Investment Corp - GIC) and central banks diversifying into gold.

The world€™s central banks were net buyers of an estimated 1.1 million oz in January. Ecuador and Russia appear to have been the main buyers. Despite much signals of intent from the Chinese, there are no records of them buying gold yet (at least not through conventional transparent channels).

Reuters reports that huge flows of institutional money is flowing into money market funds and into the precious metals of silver and platinum and particularly gold (this demand is being manifest in both ETFs and into actual physical bullion in Swiss allocated accounts which we offer).

CPM, the metals consultancy said that €œthose central banks that have been selling gold for much of the past two decades have sold most of what they wanted to sell. Others are buying small volumes, and considering larger purchases, in the face of the financial crises and currency market volatility they have faced over the past year.€

Demand for gold is so large that the world€™s mining supply will find it extremely difficult to cope with the demand resulting in much higher prices. The world€™s largest gold ETF, GLD has purchased in the first two months of the year more than 65% of all annual global gold mine production. World central banks have bought the equivalent of more than 20%. This means that some 85% of the annual world gold mine production was bought by just four identifiable entities so far this year.

This would suggest that the weakness seen on the COMEX is again to do with leveraged speculators with short term horizons, some of whom are manipulating the price for their own nefarious purposes. Regulators were quick to clamp down on the short sellers in the stock markets but seem remarkably reluctant to tackle possible manipulation in the precious metal markets.

As ever, leveraged paper players can do considerable technical damage and be successful in their machinations in the short term but the fundamental and divine laws of supply and demand will ultimately dictate prices, as they always so.