Gold
Gold dipped sharply in US trading yesterday from $1,136/oz to $1,118.50/oz before closing down 1% to $1,120/oz. Gold also fell in pounds, euro and Swiss francs but remains near record nominal highs in these currencies. Gold rose to $1,123/oz so far in Asian trading and is currently trading at $1,119.50/oz and in euro and GBP terms, it is trading at €825/oz and £749/oz respectively.

Receding eurozone debt fears saw US equities maintain last week's gains but equity markets in Asia were mixed and have fallen in this morning's European trade.

China's growing financial and economic power was seen yesterday when the head of China's foreign exchange administration, which manages the country's $2,400bn in foreign exchange reserves, said that gold is not likely to be the country's main reserve investment. The Director of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, Yi Gang, said that China's main tool in its diversification agenda would not be gold - it is, in fact, impossible for gold to become a major investment channel for China's foreign exchange reserves. Gold had already fallen some 1% prior to the announcement and the gold was flat after his comments.

width=365

Gang highlighted what is already known by markets - that the gold market is tiny in terms of total currency value when compared to the massive value of all currency and bond markets internationally. While the gold mining supply is increasing at a small 1.5% per annum, money supply internationally is growing extremely rapidly as debt monetization, quantitative easing and near zero interest policies continue. China's gold reserves are miniscule when compared to their huge foreign exchange holdings. The Chinese currently hold 1,054 tonnes which are just 1.5% of official reserves.

Chinese officials are on record on numerous occasions stating their intent to increase China's gold reserves and Chinese citizens have been encouraged on Chinese state television to invest in gold and silver. Selectively, Mr Gang said that gold was not a good investment over a 30 year period. He thus, ignored how gold has outperformed most investments over a 5, 10 and even a 40 year investment horizon. Mr Gang's comments may be an effort to talk gold down and ensure China secures gold at competitive prices in the coming months.

Given the recent diplomatic tension between the US and China there is an important geopolitical dimension to this story that bears watching. It could also be interpreted as a diplomatic warning to the US financial authorities that they expect US monetary economic policies to be responsible and that the vast Chinese holdings not be devalued.  Gang said that China does not want to politicise [these investments] ... We are a responsible investor and in the process of these investments we can definitely achieve a mutually beneficial result.

Chinese diversification into gold will continue but the Chinese will continue to do so under the radar and will not broadcast their intentions for fear of driving up gold prices and then having to chase the market. However, were geopolitical tensions to continue escalating between the US and China, then the Chinese could use the gold market as a form of economic leverage with the US.

width=409

SilverSilver reached as high as $17.22/oz this morning in Asia. Silver is currently trading at $17.09/oz, €12.55/oz and £11.41/oz.

Platinum Group Metals
Platinum is trading at $1,596/oz and palladium is currently trading at $472/oz. Rhodium is at $2,550/oz.

News
Oil fell in Asian trade today amid fading exuberance over better than expected US jobs data.  New York's main contract, light sweet crude for April delivery, was off 45 cents to $81.42 a barrel. Brent North Sea crude for April delivery eased 42 cents to $80.05.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of the hurdles facing the new EMF. Radical plans for a European version of the International Monetary Fund to bail out crisis-hit countries would need a new treaty and the agreement of all European Union member states, she warned.

The lessons from the current crisis and previous crises suggest that failure to address long overdue reform challenges promptly might result in a lost decade for the global economy, Jürgen Stark, the chief economist of the European Central Bank (ECB) said on Monday.

The US Congressional Budget Office has warned of the surging US national debt. If President Obama's 2011 budget were put into effect as proposed, the U.S. federal government would add an estimated $9.8 trillion to the country's accrued debt over the next decade, according to a preliminary analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. Of that amount, an estimated $5.6 trillion will be in interest alone. By 2020, the agency estimates debt held by the public would reach $20.3 trillion, or 90% of GDP. That's up from 53% of GDP in 2009. These numbers are a stark illustration of the long term challenges facing the dollar and serve to underline why the Chinese are likely to continue gradually diversifying into gold.