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20% of Naira in Circulation is Fake, Says Former CBN Dep Governor

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  • 20% of Naira in Circulation is Fake, Says Former CBN Dep Governor

Twenty per cent of the currency in circulation is fake, a former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, has disclosed.

Mailafia made the disclosure yesterday while speaking at the opening session of a three-day public hearing on the 2017 budget appropriation process in the National Assembly on the topic: “Public Finance in the Context of Economic Recession: Innovative Options.”

The ex-banker who said investors’ knowledge of the huge economic potential in Nigeria was the reason for the recent oversubscription of the $1 billion Eurobond sale by the federal government, adding that it was saddening that the concerned authorities appear to be oblivious of the gravity of the fake currency in circulation, which he said was highly detrimental to the growth of the economy.

According to him, when fake currencies of that magnitude circulate, original currencies become scarce, warning that “bad money chases away good money”.

Mailafia blamed the recession in Nigeria on a number of factors such as the fall in oil prices, dwindling foreign reserves, a weakening naira, negative growth, and the existing gap in public policies.

Other factors he listed were poor banking practices, the stock market crisis, speculation, regulatory failure, corruption and fraud, as well as weak macro-economic management.

He described the American depression of 1929 as one of the worst in world history, recalling that though the crisis was caused by a stock market crash, it was compounded by the myopic intervention of the U.S. government at the time, which he said increased the interest rate in the face of the recession, instead of lowering it.

Mailafia warned the federal government and financial regulators against the high interest rate regime, pointing out that it would only aggravate the nation’s economic woes.

He also warned against a hike in taxes, suggesting that the federal government should expand its income tax base by getting more people to pay taxes instead of increasing them, stating that doing so will further impede economic growth and investment.

He also narrated how the U.S. government headed by Franklin D. Roosevelt later rescued the depressed American economy by boosting consumption and building infrastructure which provided jobs, and advised the incumbent government of President Muhammadu Buhari against sustaining its excuses that it did not cause the recession, reminding it that the buck stops on its table.

He also advised the legislature and the executive to deploy the current budget process to stimulate the economy, focus on factors that can rejuvenate growth, stabilise the exchange and interest rates and simultaneously provide a stimulus package that will ensure a synergy between economic growth and the budget package.

He said it was unfortunate that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) allowed the MMM Ponzi scheme to operate in Nigeria, a situation he said could be detrimental to an already crippled economy, in view of Nigerians’ gross involvement in the scheme through the withdrawal of monies with commercial banks for investment in the scheme. He described the trend as risky for banking.

He further advised the government to reposition key institutions, invest in key infrastructure that can create employment for the teeming youths as was the case in the United States, which re-invented railway operations and reduced taxation.

Also delivering a speech on “Key Challenges of Planning and Budgeting in Nigeria: A Case Study of Social Safety Net Programme Implementation in Nigeria”, Dr. Nazif Darma, of the Department of Economics, University of Abuja, blamed the stagnation in the economy on the absence of planning.

He noted that India’s economy has grown consistently for decades because the country has a history of national planning spanning 65 years.

He also canvassed the need to review the Vision 20:20202 blueprint which he said should be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

Darma also echoed Mailafia on taxation, saying “this is not the time to increase taxes. You can increase the number of people that will pay taxes”.

According to him, a five-year development plan should be drawn from Vision 20:2020 plan.

In her presentation, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed said the 2016 budget failed to achieve its target because of the following factors: the contraction in GDP; the fall of the oil production from the targeted 2.2 million barrels per day to 1.4 million; galloping inflation of over 18 per cent from the projected 9.8 per cent; protracted depreciation of the exchange rate from the projected N197 to $1 to N305/$, while the revenue target of 3.8 per cent only attained 2.117 per cent.

According to her, oil revenue declined sharply due to the fall in oil prices while the drop in oil production arising from the militancy in the Niger Delta compounded the situation.

She, however, said the 2017 budget was conceived to achieve economic recovery, stimulate growth, pull Nigeria out of the recession and sustain macro-economic growth, adding that the budget would expand the frontiers of private-public partnerships, provide jobs through small and medium enterprises (SMEs), create wealth, and foster social safety for the poor and vulnerable in the society.

She added that this year’s revenue projection of N4.942 trillion is 28 per cent higher than the N3.85 trillion target in 2016, with 11 per cent of the projection meant to be drawn from recovered loot and 4.9 per cent from value added tax (VAT), among other sources.

Her counterpart in the ministry, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, who came late to the event, said in line with the submissions of Mailafia and Darma, the government had no plan to increase tax and the VAT rate but was seeking to broaden the tax base.

“I will like to talk on taxation. A view was expressed that we should not increase taxes; we should broaden the collection of taxes. That is precisely what is in the budget. There is no increase in VAT, there is no increase in the company income tax, there is no increase at all in taxes,” Udoma said.

In his submission, Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, traced the foreign exchange crisis to 1986 when he said naira was first devalued by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, saying since then, the naira has been consistently devalued.

Ogbeh also supported the view on lower interest rates, saying unless economists and bankers collaborate on reducing interest rates, “a disaster lies ahead”.

However, a coalition of civil society organisations under the aegis of Citizen Wealth Platform (CWP) said it had uncovered a range of frivolous, inappropriate, unclear and wasteful expenditure proposals in the 2017 budget.

According to the group, the sum of N151.536 billion was allocated to wasteful, duplicated and needless proposals and had been identified in the budget which it wanted the National Assembly to save by striking out such proposals, some of which it said were contained in 2016 budget.

The coalition also called for a reduction of National Assembly budget of N115 billion in 2017 to N110 billion “in the spirit of the austere times and to demonstrate solidarity with the Nigerian people who are suffering and going through untold hardship”.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, in his address, described as erroneous the impression that the National Assembly could not tinker with budget estimates laid before it by the president.

“The people who hold such views are ignorant about the nature and exercise of executive power,” Dogara said.

“Except where the constitution grants powers or duties to the president, the executive governing authority must be created by legislation.

“Therefore, the exercise of any executive power by the president or any member of the executive not expressly conferred on him or them by the constitution or an Act of parliament is ultra vires.

“There is nothing known as executive appropriation of public funds under our constitution or laws,” Dogara added.

The Speaker further said the legislature would not abdicate its constitutional responsibility no matter the degree of intimidation and blackmail it is subjected to by persons who “brazenly put our democracy in a recession”.

Dogara further harped on the need to institutionalise the scrutiny of annual budgets by CSOs as parts of efforts to enhance transparency, adding that many CSOs had already scrutinised the budget and pointed out areas of waste and duplication.

While declaring the event open, Senate President Bukola Saraki pledged the commitment of the legislature to engender economic recovery and growth.

“To this end, we will ensure that proposed projects and programmes, and their estimated expenditure are in sync with government priorities.

“Beyond that, we will also ensure that in line with the amended Procurement Act, a sizable part of the capital expenditure is retained within the country as government patronises made-in-Nigeria products,” Saraki said.

He added that the legislature would focus on priority bills that would facilitate the ease of doing business in Nigeria, particularly in critical sectors of the economy.

He listed such bills to include the National Transport Commission Bill, National Road Fund Bill, National Road Authority Bill, National Inland Waterways Bill, Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Bill, Infrastructure Development Commission Bill, Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Markets

Seesaw Price Action Continues

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By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

Stock markets are bouncing back again on Wednesday as the seesaw price action continues in the face of significant Omicron uncertainty.

Today’s rebound really doesn’t feel particularly warranted given what little we know about Omicron at this point and what Jerome Powell said yesterday. A hawkish central bank and clearly concerned governments around the world is hardly the recipe for a new surge in the stock market.

But then, buying dips has often appeared to defy logic and yet been very effective so you can’t blame investors for giving it a try. And let’s face it, we’re a good headline on vaccine effectiveness away from a potentially tasty Santa rally. Maybe that’s the play for those jumping back in despite the worrying signs around the new variant.

Whether these rallies will have the legs over the next week or two maybe doesn’t matter in that sense. And I’d be surprised if they do until we get more information.

It’s perhaps more surprising that Powell’s comments haven’t had a bigger impact. For the Chairman to wait so long to tell investors what they already know and choose to do so at a time of real uncertainty when many still expect the central bank to be the backstop is both bizarre and a big deal. Is Powell trying to lay the groundwork for a faster tightening of policy if Omicron turns out not to be too bad, or regardless of whether it is or not?

CBRT intervenes as Erdogan vows there’s no going back

It’s been another wild session for the lira after the CBRT intervened in the markets and President Erdogan doubled down on his assault on interest rates, stating there’s no going back from the current economic model. The lira continued to fall on these comments prior to the intervention which only gave the currency a temporary lift.

The CBRT won’t be able to fight the market forever in its pursuit of rate cuts without consequences. The only thing they’re bringing to the market is more volatility and two-way price action but if they continue on the path they are on, then stability will elude them and the whole experiment will come at a great cost. Perhaps this is the first step towards Turkey joining Team Bitcoin?

Oil edges higher ahead of massive OPEC+ meeting

Oil remains extremely volatile ahead of tomorrow’s OPEC+ meeting when the group will decide if and how to respond to the Omicron news and last month’s coordinated SPR release by major consuming nations. On the latter, I don’t think there’ll be a direct retaliation – perhaps a warning – but it may feed into any decision-making on the new variant.

I still think the meeting has come too soon. That’s evident in the fact that it was pushed back by a couple of days in order to gather more data. And I’m not sure there’s enough at this stage to make an informed judgment. And if they had, by their own admission, factored in another wave this winter, then there should be no need to adjust at this stage. Although the SPR release may push some to support it anyway under the guise of an Omicron response.

With prices having fallen so far from the highs – around 20% – a one-month pause, for example, could see crude bounce back sharply and would discretely undo any benefit resulting from the SPR move.

Gold awaiting more data

Gold is really struggling for direction at the momentum, having repeatedly failed to generate any momentum above $1,800. It’s not in decline anymore but it can’t seem to make its mind up. The dollar easing in recent days and the huge amount of uncertainty in the markets should be giving it a lift but then we have seen near-term yields rising as the Fed has accepted more action may be necessary.

Perhaps like the rest of us, gold traders are simply waiting on more information before deciding where to head next. Choppy price action may be here to stay for now but the next couple of weeks will shed a light of light on what’s in store, at which point we should see gold find some direction once more.

Bitcoin benefiting from improved risk appetite

Bitcoin is enjoying some reprieve in today’s risk recovery but just like other assets in the same bracket, remains vulnerable to the continual shifts in sentiment as information slowly appears. We seem to be jumping from good news to bad news and back again on a daily basis which perhaps doesn’t bode well for Thursday. Although at this stage and after such a pullback in risk assets, no news may also bring some temporary relief.

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Crude Oil Could Hit $150 a Barrel When Global Economy Fully Reopened

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Crude oil price could skyrocket to $150 a barrel when the world economy fully reopened, according to Christopher Wood, the Head of Equity Strategy at Jefferies, an American multinational independent investment bank and financial services company headquartered in New York City.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, plunged to $67.46 a barrel on Tuesday amid the uncertainty surrounding the Omicron Covid variant. However, it pared losses on Wednesday, rebounding to $70.94 a barrel as of 3:03 pm Nigerian time.

In spite of about 21 percent decline in the value of the commodity in the last three trading sessions, Wood believed the commodity could rise to as much as $150 per barrel once the world economy fully reopened despite campaigns to halt the use of fossil fuel and embrace more environmentally friendly energy.

Explaining the modalities for his position, he said crude oil rose to over $80 a barrel with the partial reopening of the global economy, this he said was largely due to high demand for fossil fuels even without the usual investment incentives in the sector.

“Oil got to over $80 with a lot of Asia closed,” and China’s borders are effectively still closed, he said, in reference of Beijing’s strict zero-Covid approach. “In a really fully reopened world, the oil price could go to a $150 dollars because the supply constraints are dramatic.”

He claimed the political attack on fossil fuels in recent years was the reason incentive for investment in the sector dropped in spite of its lingering importance, adding that 84 percent of the world’s energy in 2020 was met by fossil fuels.

According to him, because nobody is really investing in fossil energy, supply constraints will continue to support prices, which could hit $150 a barrel.

“The issue for me is not the oil price, the issue is the pandemic. The oil price is gonna go higher in a fully reopened world because nobody’s investing in oil but the world still consumes fossil fuels,” he said.

“So oil can go much higher and that can definitely escalate an inflation scare,” Wood said.

 

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Markets

Omicron Headline Tennis Continues

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By Jeffrey Halley, Senior Market Analyst, Asia Pacific, OANDA

Markets endured another night of high drama overnight thanks to the latest omicron return of serve by the CEO of Moderna, and Jerome Powell shifting to what can only be interpreted as a hawkish stance in testimony on the Hill. The Moderna CEO raised questions about the efficacy of present vaccines and omicron late in Asia yesterday, which stopped the recovery rally in its tracks. Equities tumbled in late Asia, Europe and the US, while investors poured cash into Bunds and US Treasuries, flattening the US curve, and the haven Yen and Swiss France jumped. Oil prices, perhaps the most schizophrenic market out there at the moment, collapsed once again, and we haven’t even got to OPEC+ yet.

Jerome Powell, testifying on the Hill yesterday, added to the tumult, retiring the word “transitory” as his favourite pronoun for inflation, and suggesting that the Federal Reserve could unwind monetary stimulus faster than previously announced. The abrupt change of direction caught markets off guard and deepened the malaise in equity markets, while short-dated US yields rose as long-dated ones were falling on omicron-haven inflow, the yield curve flattening substantially overnight.

Treasury Secretary Yellen, also testifying, pleaded with Congress to extend the debt ceiling, saying a recession could follow and that the government would run out of money around the middle of the month. This story has been off the news front pages for a while now and had little impact once again overnight. Markets clearly believe some sort of bipartisan deal will still occur once the chest-puffing is over.

The Powell comments would have had a far greater impact, I believe, if the Moderna omicron story had not done some of the work for markets already. In the case of bond markets, haven buyers of long-dated US yields overwhelmed any inclination by investors to sell treasuries and steepen the yield curve once again. That was also evident in European markets, where Eurozone inflation exploded higher to 4.90% but Bund yields fell. It was left to currency markets to take the strain, with the US Dollar falling across the board and the Euro rallying along with the haven currencies. Perhaps the most confusing move was the US Dollar falling versus the EM space. I am taking the EM FX rally overnight with a massive grain of salt, and I can only surmise that month-end flows played their part.

I warned yesterday that the only winner in December was likely to be volatility as the street sells everything on any negative omicron headline, and then buys everything back on any hint that the new variant isn’t as serious as we all thought. Despite the awful New York session, the fallout in Asia and Europe may not be so bad thanks to a story out of Israel released by Italy 24 News no less. The story quotes the Israeli Health Minister as saying three doses of vaccine (in Israel it is Pfizer), protects from omicron and there is no need to panic. When a politician says, “no need to panic,” I always get nervous, but, financial markets now have their hope is eternal, straw of the day, to grasp at now. Tomorrow is another day though, and I have no doubt that another headline will have the mindless herd we call the financial markets, stampeding the other way.

If we can strip out the noise, I would grasp two themes from overnight. Firstly, European inflation has joined the inflation bonfire and markets are now starting to price that the world’s government debt monetiser-and-chief, the ECB, may have to respond, hence the rally in the Euro overnight. I think that is a false hope. Secondly, Chairman Powell’s comments were a decidedly hawkish change of direction and the mid-month FOMC meeting will be live for a faster taper. Distortions from omicron pushed aside, the US yield curve should steepen, and the US Dollar rally will return in Q1 2022.

Back in the real world, we have had quite a bit of data out of Asia today. Australian Ai Group Manufacturing Index for November jumped to 54.8 and Markit Manufacturing PMI to 59.2. Australian Q3 GDP QoQ contracted by just -1.90%, far better than the -2.70% forecast. The data suggests that the lucky country weathered the Q3 lockdowns better than expected and is recovering in Q4 at a vigorous pace. House prices even went up in Brisbane more than they did in Sydney.

Elsewhere, November PMIs across Asia were positive. Japan’s Jibun Bank Manufacturing PMI rose to 54.5, while South Korea’s Markit Manufacturing PMI climbed to 50.9 and its trade data showed a wider surplus and rising exports and imports. Regional Markit Manufacturing PMIs from ASEAN and Taiwan showed impressive improvements into expansionary territory, with Taiwan holding steady at 53.9. Only Indonesia retreated, falling to 53.9 from 57.2, but still expansionary.

Perhaps the only blot on the copybook today has been China’s Caixin Manufacturing PMI which retreated from 50.6 in October to 49.9 in November. The fallout should be minimal as the official PMI climbed to 50.1 yesterday. It still suggests that China faces challenges regarding input costs, and energy, although the squeeze in the latter has eased somewhat. The trade surplus remains very healthy though, and the overall picture from Asia is that its post-delta recovery continues to gain momentum despite supply chain challenges. Obviously, omicron could change that picture, but it is far too soon to draw conclusions.

A number of heavyweight Markit Manufacturing PMIs, including Germany and France, are also released today, as well as the ISM Manufacturing PMI. They should hold steady in expansionary territory whilst revealing supply chain and material cost challenges under the bonnet. With omicron dominating market direction, their impact will be minimal. US ADP Employment could print above 500,000 jobs added tonight, giving weight to a stronger Non-Farm release on Friday and perhaps increasing the Fed tapering noise.

A mixed day for Asian equities.

The Moderna CEOs concerns about vaccine efficacy and omicron torpedoed late closing Asian equity markets overnight, as well as Europa and US markets. A hawkish Jerome Powell darkening an already dark day for Wall Street. However, US index futures are strongly rallying this morning on what I assume to be a follow-through from comments out of Israel that booster shots would offer omicron protection. That has also lifted some Asian markets.

Overnight, the S&P 500 sank by 1.90%, with the Nasdaq falling by 1.55%, while the Dow Jones slumped by 1,84%. In Asia, US futures have jumped higher, led by Nasdaq futures which have leapt 1.10%, followed by a gain of 0.75% by the S&P futures and a rise of 0.45% by Dow Jones futures.

In Asia, the picture is mixed, with late closing markets yesterday outperforming earlier closing ones that missed the Moderna headlines and are playing catchup. Thankfully, the rise in US index futures is taking the edge of regional losses. The Nikkei 225 is 0.70% higher with the Kospi leaping 1.60% higher, coat-tailing the Nasdaq futures. In China, the Shanghai Composite and CSI 300 are flat after a softer Caixin PMI and nagging property sector debt repayment concerns. The Hang Seng is showing no such worries, rocketing 1.45% higher.

Regional markets are mixed today. Taipei is unchanged as Singapore rallies sharply, rising higher by 1.40%, but Kuala Lumpur has fallen by 0.80% and Jakarta by 1.15%, hampered by the overnight slump in oil prices. Bangkok is 1.40% lower with Manila falling 0.55%. Australian markets are also in the red but only modestly. The All Ordinaries has fallen by 0.55%, with the ASX 200 down just 0.35%.

The price action this morning highlights that omicron headlines continue to dominate intra-day market direction despite some major developments from Jerome Powell overnight. European markets are likely to follow North Asia higher for exactly the same reasons and in an environment of schizophrenic tail-chasing, the only winner this week will be volatility.

A confusing night on currency markets.

It is difficult to unpick the overnight movements in currency markets. The Moderna omicron headlines sent haven currencies such as the Japanese Yen and Swiss Franc soaring, but the US Dollar also faded badly versus the Euro and the emerging market space. Inflows into the German Bund market will have assisted the Euro, but heighteded concerns over omicron should have weakened EM currencies, not strengthened them. Additionally, a hawkish Powell narrative in overnight testimony should have been US Dollar positive, although the US yield curve flattened afterwards.

I can only surmise that in the confused menagerie of overnight trading, month-end institutional flows played their part in the US Dollar’s demise. Notably, the Sterling and Australian and New Zealand Dollars barely moved on a closing basis, despite the EM FX rally. That suggests the risk sentiment remains fragile and that the EM rally overnight should be taken with a huge grain of salt. The prospect of a faster Fed taper and earlier hikes in 2022 should start to reassert themselves.

The dollar index traded in a frenzied 100 point range overnight between 95.50 and 96.50, before closing 0.31% lower at 95.89, rising slightly to 95.95 in Asia. 95.50 to 96.50 will probably cover the rest of the week, at least until the next omicron headline. EUR/USD rose 0.40% to 1.1330, but its rally looks fragile. USD/JPY and USD/CHF plummeted on haven buying, with USD/JPY testing 112.50 intra-day before closing at 113.20. The cross looks very overdone at 112.50 and I will stick my neck out and say that will be the week’s low.

The US Dollar has strengthened this morning, notably against the majors, perhaps as risk sentiment has recovered. That is evidenced by the 0.40% rise by AUD/USD and NZD/USD today, which are key barometers of market risk sentiment. Both currencies remain vulnerable to headline risk though and a move below their 2021 lows at 0.7100 and 0.6800 remains the path of least resistance.

Asian currencies rallied sharply overnight with SUD/CNY falling 0.405 to 6.3940, USD/MYR falling 0.90% to 4.2000 despite oil plummeting, and USD/KRW falling 0.70% to 1182.70, a pattern repeated across the Asia FX space. I believe month-end flows, as well as the fall of the USD/JPY, helped drive the EM outperformance. Asian currencies have continued to book more gains today in Asia, driven by improved risk sentiment after the vaccine efficacy story from Israel gained wider circulation. With Asia FX rallying on positive virus news, its stands to reason that the next negative headline will see them about-face. With Jerome Powell setting a hawkish tone overnight, I would urge caution about the longevity of the Asian FX rally.

Oil has another virus slump.

In a high-volatility week, oil markets are in a league of their own. The Moderna CEO’s vaccine efficacy comments yesterday triggered another massive slump in oil prices. Brent crude finished 4.50% lower at $70.15 a barrel, having traded below $68.00 intraday. WTI slumped 4.40% to $66.95 a barrel, having tested $64.50 intraday.

With risk sentiment improving slightly, and the fall in prices irresistible to physical bargain hunters, Brent and WTI have rallied by 0.85% to $70.8- and $65.65 in Asia. It must be noted, however, that the gains this morning are only a slight dent in the scale of the falls seen in the past four sessions. While positive virus headlines provide an excuse for fast-money buying, the weaker side still seems to be lower.

With panicked tail-chasing blowing out volatility this week, the full OPEC+ meeting tomorrow cannot come soon enough, with the grouping cancelling the JMMC meeting earlier this week to evaluate omicron. With oil’s slump overnight, it is almost certain that OPEC+ will pause its scheduled production hikes for December to allow it to assess the impact of omicron more fully on the world economy. President Biden won’t be happy, but it does seem to be the more sensible move right now.  If OPEC+ postpones hikes tomorrow, oil prices may stabilise around present levels.

Technical levels and indicators are fairly useless in markets such as this, driven by panicked swings in investor sentiment and low liquidity. However, for what it is worth, the relative strength indexes (RSIs) on both Brent and WTI are now heavily oversold, indicating markets are vulnerable to a short squeeze. The overnight lows should provide some support ahead of OPEC+. Until OPEC+ announces its decisions though, we can expect more blood-bath range trading.

Gold is in trouble.

Gold’s price action continues to underwhelm, as it finished the overnight session down 0.55% at $1775.00 an ounce, before eking out a 0.20% gain to $1778.70 an ounce in Asia, almost a rerun of the price action yesterday. There are zero signs of any safe-haven bids emerging to shelter from virus volatility, and it is falling despite both US yields and the US Dollar also falling. Gold has now recorded its 3rd successive daily close below its 50,100 and 200 DMAs clustered between $1791.00 and $1792.20 an ounce, yet another bearish signal.

Gold will have resistance at $1800.00 and $1815.00, while yesterday’s low at $1770.00 an ounce, has traced out a double bottom support level. Failure of $1770.00 now signals a retest of $1760.00 and $1740.00 an ounce. I do not rule out a move lower to $1720.00 this week, especially if the Non-Farms puts the Fed taper front and centre after yesterday’s hawkish tone to the Powell testimony.

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