Commodity managers fleeing gold

Hedge funds lowered bullish bets on gold for a fourth week, the longest streak this year.

The net-long position contracted to the lowest since mid- February as speculators sold bullion on signs of accelerating U.S. economic growth. The investors more than doubled bets on lower prices in the past month while reducing wagers on a rally in six of the past seven weeks.

Prices fell 7.6 percent since reaching a six-month high in March after tension in Ukraine eased and U.S. equities rallied to a record. The number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance payments held last week near the lowest level in almost seven years and retail sales in March increased more than economists forecast. Bullion plunged 28 percent in 2013 as some investors lost their faith in the metal as a store of value.

“It is very difficult for gold to sustain the panic that makes it a good safe-haven trade,” said Frances Hudson, a strategist at Standard Life in Edinburgh, which oversees $294 billion of assets. “I see demand for gold remaining non- enthusiastic. Things are looking better in the U.S. and Europe. It’s not that both these economies are racing ahead, but they are gradually improving.”

Gold Slide

Futures declined 1.9 percent to $1,293.90 an ounce last week in New York. The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index of 24 commodities advanced 1.4 percent, while the MSCI All-Country World Index of equities rose 1.7 percent. The Bloomberg Dollar Index rose 0.4 percent, and the Bloomberg Treasury Bond Index retreated 0.5 percent. Bullion traded at $1,286.80 at 11:44 a.m. in New York.

The net-long position in gold fell 8.5 percent to 90,137 futures and options in the week to April 15, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Short holdings betting on a drop jumped 15 percent.

The U.S. consumer-price index rose 0.2 percent in March, topping the 0.1 percent forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists, government data showed April 15. Gold tumbled 2 percent that day, the most in 16 weeks. Rising prices give the Federal Reserve more leeway to decrease monetary stimulus, after policy makers debated whether to signal a concern with too-low inflation when they met March 18-19.

The central bank in March reduced the monthly pace of bond purchases by $10 billion to $55 billion, and signaled additional cuts in “further measured steps.” Gold jumped 70 percent from December 2008 to June 2011 as the Fed bought debt and cut interest rates to a record in a bid to boost the economy.

Inflation Expectations

Bullion climbed 6.8 percent in the first quarter as Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and emerging-market currencies slid. Minutes from the Fed’s March meeting showed that several officials said projections for an increase in U.S. borrowing costs might be overstated.

Inflation expectations, measured by the five-year U.S. Treasury break-even rate, jumped 7.1 percent last week, the most since July.

“The long-term investors will gradually accumulate gold as they want to hedge against future inflation,” said Jeffrey Sherman, who helps manage more than $49 billion of assets for DoubleLine Capital in Los Angeles. “Gold has found a floor because of Ukraine and turmoil in emerging countries. While it may not make money in the short term, it’s a good diversifier.”

Holdings in gold-backed exchange-traded products fell 0.4 percent last week, down for a fifth straight week and reached the lowest since mid-February, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Demand in China, the biggest buyer, may be limited this year, the London-based World Gold Council said April 15. India, the second-largest consumer, will probably keep restrictions on imports to control the current account deficit and defend the rupee, according to Rajesh Khosla at MMTC-PAMP India Pvt., the nation’s top refiner.

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