Gold and oil back in favour as geopolitical risks rise

ETF SecuritiesGeopolitical risk took another lurch for the worse last week, with Russia imposing a full ban on food imports and the US intervening in Iraq. While most macro data continues to point to a pick-up in global growth, benefiting cyclical assets, investors remain jittery and largely on the sidelines. With the geopolitical situation likely to remain tense, we expect defensive assets to continue to see strong demand in the near-term.

ETF flowsGold and oil back in favour as geopolitical risks linger. Total inflows into gold and oil ETPs reached US$223mn and US$82mn respectively over the past month as geopolitical risks in Russia and the Middle East cloud the positive global economic outlook. The US authorised limited air strikes in Iraq last week, while Russia banned imports of food from the EU and the US, increasing risk aversion. While oil production and export facilities in southern Iraq have yet to be affected, a further push by ISIS into the south would likely trigger another spike in oil prices. With the geopolitical situation expected to remain tense, demand for defensive assets is likely to remain strong. Meanwhile, ETFS Physical Silver (PHAG) saw US$8.5mn of outflows as the silver price came under pressure last week. Nearterm headwinds are likely to continue to weigh on silver until it is clear that industrial demand is coming through. With the US manufacturing ISM rising to its highest level since 2011 and China demand picking up, we anticipate that industrial demand support will ultimately offset negative pressure from expectations of rising real interest rates.

Copper and aluminium receive combined inflows of US$127mn as investors buy into China’s growth story. While weak China’s import data and heightened geopolitical risks weighed on most industrial metal prices last week, growth in the world’s second largest economy remains robust and with strong government support the industrial metal rally looks set to continue. Stronger US growth combined with a rebound in Chinese manufacturing data and more decisive monetary stimulus in the euro area should continue to be supportive of commodity prices, metals in particular, in the coming months.

Long wheat ETPs receive US$2.7mn of inflows as abundant rainfall in Europe decreased the availability of high quality wheat. Wheat prices reacting strongly to the news and were up 5.9% last week, after having lost over 7% since the beginning of the year. Long cotton ETPs also saw inflows last week, totalling US$2.6mn, on expectations of a drought in Australia, the world’s cotton 3rd largest cotton exporter. At the same time, investors reduced their coffee exposure, with long and leveraged coffee ETPs seeing over US$5mn of outflows, as price plummeted 5.7% last week.

Key events to watch this week. Industrial production statistics for a number of countries will be coming out this week, with China, the US and the Eurozone’s likely to be watched closely. Bank of England Inflation Report will also be looked at by investors, as inflationary pressure might prompt an earlier-than-expected rate hike.

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