The long weekend in the U.S. did little to keep the rest of the world calm about Brexit fallout, so gold -- typically seen as a safe haven in times of market volatility and uncertainty -- continues to see inflows.
As the world seeks some political leadership, central bank ineptness is weighing on global fixed-income yields and creating an unstable currency environment. This continues to make gold attractive. The geopolitical environment over the past week -- with terrorist attacks from Istanbul to Bangladesh to Iraq to Saudi Arabia -- just exacerbates the grab for safe-haven assets.
The online Comex futures market, which was open on July 4, saw a substantial 40 million ounces change hands Tuesday. That volume was the second highest in the past 10 days, the day after the Brexit vote saw the highest volume. The August gold futures contract (GCQ6) actually filled a gap from that historic June 24 trading day, making a new contract high of $1,360.30 an ounce before closing Tuesday at more than $1,358 an ounce.
Some gold bears may consider this a double top technical formation, but I still see no reason to be bearish on gold. If anything, the current environment makes me more bullish. Global bond yields are making new lows as Britain's vote to leave the European Union is going to force central banks to keep interest rates low, which is contributing to the rush for gold and its higher-beta sister silver.
Against the current backdrop, the Federal Reserve, which was talking about raising interest rates just six weeks ago, may hope that there is a decent employment number on Friday so that it doesn't have to ease rates.
The U.S 10-year Treasury was trading at an all-time low Tuesday of 1.367%, and that's going to add to the fear that portfolios better put some protection in place.
Gold exchange-traded funds had a weekly inflow of $2.04 billion last week, which is five times the weekly average. Gold open interest and net long positions on Comex are at their highest levels since 2006, so market observers are starting to talk about the possibility of a bubble in the yellow metal. Despite the year-to-date increase of 27% in the price of gold, the factors that should propel gold higher are better in place today than in 2007-2008.
I just mentioned U.S. 10-year yields, but we have to look at eurozone 10-year yields. Germany: -0.17%! France: 0.14%. Italy: 1.24%. This is extraordinary, especially when Japanese government bonds have a negative yield.
Meanwhile, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has no answer to Deutsche Bank's trading at an all-time low market capitalization of $20 billion while supporting a $2 trillion balance sheet, with who knows how many incorrectly valued derivatives or toxic assets.
There is no doubt that the German government will bail out Deutsche Bank, but what will the Italian banks do to get a bailout? Approximately 200 billion euros worth of Italian bank bonds are owned by Italian retail investors, so the stability of the eurozone will now be under stress as credit default swaps on Italian banks are being purchased.
The fact that the contagion worry is roiling all European commercial banks will only help underpin gold going forward. The pressure that this may put on the instability of the euro is just going to drive gold higher.
Maybe the only good thing that has come out of the Brexit turmoil is that Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is trying to get ahead of the curve and show some leadership. The pound at less than $1.30 and the yen's move toward 100 yen to the dollar is going to continue to make the currency markets nervous.
Options activity picked up in gold Tuesday, with some of the calls on the August futures (GCQ6) and on the December futures (GCZ6) trading in decent volumes. Implied volatilities have picked up a bit after the long weekend with at-the-money options on the front-month futures contracts trading up 1% from Friday's close.
The highest volume in the front-month options was in the $1,400 calls, which traded more than 1,000 contracts, but the interest in most call buying was in the December contract as speculators are buying to gain leverage. Meanwhile, some players were employing a buy-writing strategy.
The buy-writing makes sense as the premiums are pretty big, so it protect the downside a bit. It is suitable only for people who are long the underlying future and want to take in some premium to lower their cost basis.
Buying December calls outright seems to to be a bit of a fool's bet as premiums are too high, and gold likely will have to have some kind of retreat before going higher. Even a global meltdown in financial markets will cause some gold liquidation as margin calls will force some length out of the market.
Besides precious metals, commodities had a horrific day on Tuesday. As mentioned, silver continued its upward trajectory on high volume, trading as high as $21 Sunday night before giving back most gains Monday night then rallying again to hold $20 in regular trading on Tuesday. Options interest was relatively muted still. Platinum has actually outpaced gold in the 24 hours ending Tuesday to narrow the platinum/gold spread to -$273.
Crude oil, natural gas and the grain complex got decimated Tuesday. Crude was lower on worries about slower global growth, high gasoline stockpiles in the U.S. (a record 72.5 million barrels) and a stronger dollar. The comments from Vitol Chairman Ian Taylor surprised many as he is looking for a tight trading range over the next 18 months. The big mover was natural gas, which moved more than 5%. I am still a natural gas bull over the next month, as I expect stockpiles to retreat further. Corn and wheat continued to tumble on rainfall in the plains. Many commodity prognosticators will say that the global growth issue is weighing on grains, but I anticipate that we are now at the bottom of the range.