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Gold set for lift-off as US Fed considers rates

The US Federal Reserve is widely expected to cut interest rates this week and central banks in Poland, Russia and Turkey are stockpiling gold as the spotlight on the precious metal intensifies.
Gold set for lift-off as US Fed considers rates Gold set for lift-off as US Fed considers rates Gold set for lift-off as US Fed considers rates Gold set for lift-off as US Fed considers rates Gold set for lift-off as US Fed considers rates

Gold bull market ahead?

Gold is currently surging, having crossed the US$1,400/ounce bar earlier this month. This week's meeting of the Fed could drive it higher. 

"With an interest rate cut looking highly likely, another gold price hike looks equally as likely," UK Royal Mint spokesperson Anne Jessopp said this week.

"Following the US Federal Reserve's dovish stance on interest rates at its last meeting in June, the gold price reacted by jumping to a six year high." 

But the Fed's decision may not be the only factor driving gold upwards. Poland, Russia and Turkey added 94.9 tonnes, 16.9t and 11.3t, respectively, to their central bank gold holdings in June, according to World Gold Council data. 

Central banks buy gold to insulate them against adverse circumstances, such as a falling exchange rate (which has affected Turkey), and the fallout from troubled international relations, as in the case of Russia. 

Relations between Turkey and the US have deteriorated in recent years, while Russia has faced US sanctions over its involvement in the Ukraine and seizure of the Crimea. Poland's government has also faced criticism within the EU over domestic policy.

"Increasing purchases by public sector institutions have been fuelled by growing instability globally, with rising tensions between different countries resulting in sanctions and trade wars, as well as black swans like Brexit appearing," Russian gold miner Polyus' head of investor relations Victor Drozdov told Mining Journal.

"The Russian central bank has been actively diversifying its reserves towards gold for the past eight years, normalizing the share of gold in its reserves from 7% in mid-2011 to 19% today."

Many investors, including in the mining industry, are concerned that geopolitcs is increasingly creating a world of zones. That anxiety could play to gold's advantage as investors seek assets perceived as relatively safe, and safer jurisdictions. 

"It is no surprise that gold continues to grow in popularity given its reputation as a safe haven asset amongst investors seeking to achieve an additional layer of portfolio protection," said Jessopp.

"It will be interesting to see whether gold markets have already priced in this widely anticipated rate cut, or if we're about to witness another gold rally milestone off the back of any outcome from the meeting this week."

A potential cut in rates, ongoing political uncertainty, and central bank purchases could all drive gold prices by pushing up demand. But gold may be benefitting from macroeconomic factors too - in particular, concerns about a possible global economic downturn. 

"On top of that, you have an overall negative sentiment over the global economy, with macro stats pointing to grassroots of potential stagnation or recession, and developed markets regulators inclining towards QE expansion," said Drozdov. 

"With all of those factors finally starting to shape rather than just support the gold price, I would be expecting demand for a natural hedge late cycle commodity to persist."