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Gold is the best-known and most popular precious metal, and it’s not hard to see why. Beyond being a key material for jewelry, investors around the world use it as a store of wealth, and many believe that it’s superior to any and all paper currencies.
Yet despite its popularity, the gold price is currently languishing well below its 2011 peak of nearly $1,900 per ounce. It took a steep dive midway through 2013, reaching about the $1,250 mark, then dropped below $1,200 at the start of 2014. Since then the gold price has stayed at about that level, with worries about a rise in the US interest rate keeping it subdued.
Many expected the lower gold price to lead to mine closures; however, as yet most gold producers have cut costs rather than shut down their operations entirely.
Miners have taken diverse approaches to making such cost reductions, including lowering salaries and cutting employees. But perhaps the most common approach has been to cut down on exploration – many gold miners are directing all their money at their existing operations rather than searching for gold elsewhere. While that’s not a problem just yet, many market watchers believe that ultimately gold may be in short supply.
For the moment, however, there’s no shortage of gold. In terms of where it’s being produced, China, Australia and Russia were the three top producers in 2014. Respectively, they put out 450, 270 and 245 tonnes of the yellow metal.
China is also one of the world’s top consumers of gold, and in 2014 took in 813.6 tonnes. That’s certainly a sizeable amount, but it’s actually down a whopping 38 percent from the 2013 number. According to Reuters, Chinese gold consumption was particularly high in 2013 because of the metal’s big drop in the latter half of the year.
India is also a major market for gold, and in 2014 consumed 842.7 tonnes of the metal. That’s the most taken in by any country, though like China, India saw a drop in gold consumption from 2013 to 2014. The title of world’s largest gold consumer is often a toss up between India and China, but in 2015 the expectation is that India will remain on top.
It’s clear that supply and demand are key factors in the gold market. That said, it’s important for investors entering the space to be aware that gold price manipulation is also a key concern.
Luckily, it’s a concern that the world’s gold market participants are keen to address. Indeed, early in 2015, the long-running London gold fix was replaced by the LBMA gold price in a bid to increase gold price transparency. Though the process still involves a variety of banks collaborating to set the gold price, the system is now electronic. Recently, some market watchers were pleased to see a Chinese bank gain a place on the roster.
While the gold price may be lower than investors would like, it’s clear that interest in the metal remains strong around the world. Those interested in investing in the metal would do well to remember that like most markets, the gold sector is cyclical, meaning that what goes down must eventually rise again.