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China, China and more China
Dan Norcini

Is Gold the Bull in the China Closet? I ask that silly question merely because it sounded catchy. Seriously, the big news today was the ENORMOUS SUPRISE coming out of the Chinese Export/Import Data. It caught everyone by complete surprise especially with all the recent talk about the Chinese authorities mandating production cutbacks to deal with what they regard as an oversupply and excessive product output. When was that - a week ago? - then it had everyone in a panic and totally pulled the rug out from beneath the base/industrial metals. Today, it is the exact opposite. Now the base/industrial metals are flying higher, along with gold. Tomorrow - who the hell knows what to expect out of that nation?

Either way, for today, the news of the gigantic surge in imports sent silver and copper higher with gold getting pulled alongside them both. Also helping gold was the rise in jobless claims fanning talk that the TAPERING is back off. Yesterday it was back on thanks to Plosser. Today it is dead.

"Long live the Tapering!".  "Death to the Tapering!" "Long live the Tapering!". " Death to the Tapering!". and on and on and on and on and on it goes.

As if we did not have enough confusion already in these markets with the contradictory statements coming out of the various Fed governors and the bizarre, often polar opposite pieces of economic data coming out of the US, now we have to deal with a BI-POLAR China. So which is it sirs - are you ordering your mandatory production cutbacks or not?

My suspicions on that big import number from China is that the Chinese are stockpiling and picking up materials at these lower costs. The Chinese are masters are acquiring replacements for their national stockpiles when prices are cheap. That does not mean they intend to use them anytime soon. It merely means that they have the storage capability to hold these in reserve and release them in the event of any shortage as they can then alleviate rising prices. My own view therefore is that the import numbers are due to strategic acquisitions and not for immediate consumption. We'll see if this is another one of those ONE DAY wonders or something more lasting.

Chatter in the gold pit was that the Chinese data means more gold buying from China which by the way is on course to supplant India as the world's largest buyer of gold. Again, we'll see if we get the kind of sustained physical offtake out of Asia to counter the continued investment-related selling of gold over here in the West.

Bulls have managed to stave off a deeper price setback by taking price back above the important $1280 chart level of support and thus returning the metal to within its recent trading range. Helping their cause has been the rally in the HUI/miners which are also exhibiting schizophrenic type behavior of late. Sharp plunges down 6% on day, followed by a rise a couple of days later of over 5%. Trading these things is something best left to those who are masochists and self-flagellators.

Note on the gold chart that the market has merely rallied back up into the recent zone that has contained the range trade for some time now. It is a nice recovery off the support zone after briefly plunging through that level so the bulls have bought themselves some time but they still need to clear that downtrending 50 day moving average AND take the price out above the TOP of the range if they are going to spook any of the deeper-pocketed shorts.

The ADX still is moving lower indicating the lack of any clear direction.

It is the Dollar however that is setting the tone for gold as it is getting beaten up against the majors today in a big way. There is a band of support near the 80.50 level on the USDX chart that looks like a magnet right now. Apparently, the world, having fallen in love with the Dollar due to the rising interest rate environment and its one way stock market, is having thoughts of a trial separation due to incompatible differences.

Big news in the cattle market today as Tyson announces that it will no longer accept cattle finished up on Zilmax. That has sent the industry into convulsions this AM. Tyson claims it is an animal welfare issue but that is more than likely a smoke screen to endear itself with the animal rights people and the Politically correct crowd. My own feeling, and that of some others, is that it is a ploy to gain additional overseas export business at the expense of some other packers. Tyson may endear themselves to PETA but they do so at the expense of angering the entire cattle industry, which is the folks who raise the cattle that they put down for meat. All I can say is that Tyson had better be prepared to put higher cash on the table for these cattle in the future to compensate their producers for the higher costs and lower per head profits that they are now going to have to face thanks to this idiotic decision.

Crude is getting hit quite hard today and is down nearly 2% as I type these comments as it works closer to the $100/barrel level. The recent rally in crude up towards $110 had me as a big skeptic, Egypt, Syria, etc., notwithstanding, because my view is that the US economy is far too weak to support higher energy prices associated with crude at those levels. When you get a payrolls number like we got last week and then you get another confirmation of a pathetic jobs market like we got this morning, just who in the hell is supposed to be able to afford to pay these kinds of prices for unleaded gasoline and maintain demand at sufficiently high levels to justify them up here?

This is why I maintain that it is the US Dollar that is the main driver behind gold today with some help from the base metals. Look, we are seeing crude oil breaking down on its chart and we are seeing the grains moving lower (except for today) meaning food and energy costs are mostly going down (yes, there are some exceptions but I am speaking mainly in generalities).. That means we have the possibility of lower energy costs, lower food costs all in combination with a jobs market that is going nowhere fast.

Where is the INCREASE in the VELOCITY OF MONEY going to come from to fuel the fires of inflation in that sort of environment? This is why I think we will need to see gold's focus almost entirely on the currency markets in order for it to generate sustained gains. It will not be inflation anytime soon in my view that will bring buying into gold. Instead - It will have to be a loss of confidence in the currencies.

Gold has recently been moving lower in terms of both the Yen and the Euro but it is moving higher in these terms today. It will be interesting to see whether or not this is a reversal of the recent trend lower and the start of something else or a one or two day event that fades.

For now, the world is back in love with the Yen and the Euro as the shorts get squeezed out by the dealers.

Dan Norcini is a professional off-the-floor commodities trader bringing more than 20 years experience in the markets to provide a trader's insight and commentary on the day's price action. His editorial contributions and supporting technical analysis charts cover a broad range of tradable entities including the precious metals and foreign exchange markets as well as the broader commodity world. He is a frequent contributor to both Reuters and Dow Jones as a market analyst for the livestock sector and can be on occasion be found as a source in the Wall Street Journal's commodities section as well as CBS Marketwatch where his views on the gold market can often be found. He is also regularly featured at the popular King World News, a website devoted to covering the precious metals markets and other related issues.

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