The gaping price differential between spot gold and gold futures that has been plaguing the paper gold markets in London and New York for the last three weeks shows no signs of abating and is continuing to flare up.
In essence, the contango phenomenon we are seeing is one of gold futures prices trading far above spot gold prices, a sign of liquidity problems in the London gold market and a signal that something is completely broken between the world‘s two predominant “gold price discovery” trading venues – which both, by the way, trade paper gold.
As a reminder, London LBMA trades unallocated gold over the counter (OTC), a form of synthetic fractional gold derivative. The vast quantities of unallocated gold which are traded in London are then netted and cleared in an electronic clearing engine called Aurum by 5 LBMA bullion banks that comprices London Precious Metals Clearing Limited (LPMCL), namely JP Morgan, HSBC, UBS, Scotia, and ICBC Standard Bank). Allocation of physical gold is a totally separate process beyond clearing in Aurum.
COMEX trades predominantly cash-settled gold futures contracts on exchange and facilitates the trading of these contracts bilaterally. COMEX futures are 99.9% cash-settled and even those that result in delivery really result in warehouse warrants changing hands but the gold staying in the New York vaults of JP Morgan, HSBC and Scotia.
That the wide-open spread continues to persist is even more remarkable, despite the best efforts of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), CME Group (operator of COMEX) and the powerful London-New York bullion bank syndicate to throw all they have at the problem.
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