Should Gold investors be worried that the world’s largest buyer of the precious metal has started selling its position?
In September, the Russian government turned heads when it sold 12,000 ounces of Gold. A small number in absolute terms, but a decidedly negative change from the fierce buying spree of the last few years. Why is Russia selling?
Russia’s economic stalling has continued throughout 2013. With 58% of Russia’s economic output dependent on Oil and Natural Gas, the economy is not well diversified. The overall GDP growth was negative in the 2nd quarter, at -.26% growth rate. The unemployment also ticked up in September to 5.5% from 5.4% in August and overall investments in Russia hit their lowest reading since 2010.
The recent Natural Gas boom in the United States has created exciting notions of an energy self-sufficient country. However, the Russians have received the wrong end of the stick on the Natural Gas trade. Natural Gas prices have dropped by over 2/3’s since mid 2011. That happens to coincide with when Russia’s economy started leveling off from years of growth. Adding to the bad news has been the severe drop in Crude prices since the summer. Much fanfare has been attributed to the rise in Russia’s Gold mining industry, however this has proved to be a disastrous year for Gold prices and many mines were financed with extraction cost levels above $1500 per ounce. Furthermore Russia is the 5th largest global Silver producer, and Silver prices have been chopped by 1/3 in the last year. There are hopes that the Sochi Olympics will bring a needed economic boost to the country.