On January 4, the precious metal took a big hit, losing up to $48 at one point in the trading session. The reason for the drop was an indication from the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) regular meeting minutes that the US central bank’s quantitative easing program (QE3), open-ended up until now, could be disbanded before the end of the year. That had bullion traders and investors hitting their sell buttons on the expectation that an end to QE — which since 2008 has kept interest rates near zero and flooded financial markets with cheap money —would be bearish for gold.
The week began on a more positive note, however, with the yellow metal rising above $1,650, buoyed by gains in stock markets on Tuesday and Wednesday, and firming near $1,680 Thursday on a sharp plunge in the US dollar. Reuters reported that the euro rose to a one-week high after European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi said that the ECB is seeing improvements in financial markets and will therefore not cut its benchmark interest rate or increase stimulus. That had the US dollar index falling and gold subsequently rising.
Spot gold on Thursday was last quoted at $1,674.80, up $16.80 from the previous session. COMEX gold futures also increased in value, with gold for February delivery up $22.20 an ounce to close at $1,677.00.
Anglo American (LSE:AAL) announced on Tuesday that it has found a new CEO to replace Cynthia Carroll, who stepped down in October. Current AngloGold Ashanti CEO, Mark Cutifani, will head the multinational miner. ”Mark Cutifani is an experienced listed company chief executive with a focus on creating value. He is a seasoned miner, with broad experience of mining operations and projects across a wide range of commodities and geographies, including South Africa and the Americas,” Anglo wrote in a statement. AngloGold Ashanti, meanwhile, has started a search for a new chief executive.
Discussions between African Barrick Gold (LSE:ABG) and China National Gold over the sale of a stake in ABG have collapsed, the Financial Times reported. State-owned China National Gold was considering purchasing a 74-percent stake in the Tanzanian gold producer. Ending speculation about the deal cost ABG a 21-percent drop in its stock price to 352.1p.
A partnership between Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX,NYSE:ABX) and Chile’s Antofagasta (LSE:ANTO) to develop a $3.3-billion copper-gold mine in Pakistan has been rejected. Reuters reported that the joint venture to develop Reko Diq mine was declared invalid by Pakistan’s top court. The crux of the problem comes down to the Pakistani provincial government of Baluchistan, which refused to convert an exploration permit into a mining license, Reuters said.
Goldcorp (TSX:G,NYSE:GG) hiked its dividend 11 percent on Monday (60 cents per share) and forecast a 10-percent increase in gold production this year to between 2.55 and 2.8 million ounces. Vancouver-based Goldcorp also said that it will begin reporting “all-in” cash costs, which include, among other things, general and administrative (G&A) expenses and exploration costs, rather than only the direct costs involved in mining and selling gold ore. For 2013, that means Goldcorp expects costs to be in the range of $1,000 to $1,100 an ounce.
Yamana Gold (TSX:YRI,NYSE:AUY) said it expects a 20-percent increase in production this year, to between 1.44 and 1.60 million ounces, and a 33-percent increase from 2012 levels in 2014. Latin America-focused Yamana said the higher gold output will be due to a full year of production at its Mercedes mine, the ramp up of the expansion project at Minera Florida, the ramp up of production at Ernesto/Pau-a-Pique and C1 Santa Luz and the start up of production at Pilar.
ABC News reported that the St. Barbara’s Southern Cross mine in Western Australia has been sold to a Chinese company. The mine, which halted operations in December, was sold to Hanking Gold Mining for $22.5 million.
New York- and Toronto-listed McEwen Mining (NYSE:MUX,TSX:MUX) said first gold was poured on January 1 at El Gallo Phase 1 in Sinaloa State, Mexico. The news caused MUX to float to $3.95 in New York on Thursday, below its 52-week high of $6.17.
Junior company news
Western Copper and Gold (TSX:WRN) rose 10 percent on Monday after releasing a feasibility study on its Casino copper-gold project in the Canadian Yukon. The study recommends construction of an open-pit mine with a concentrator and heap-leach facility. Production would average 399,000 ounces of gold, 45 million pounds of copper, 15 million pounds of molybdenum and 1.8 million ounces of silver per year during the first four years of production.
Fighting in the Central African Republic has delayed plans by Canadian gold explorer Axmin (TSXV:AXM) to open its Passendro mine, Bloomberg reported. Axmin’s CEO, George Roach, told the news outlet the mine will probably be delayed at least a year due to problems securing financing after rebels overran the mine site last month.
Shares in Eco Oro Minerals (TSX:EOM) scraped 52-week lows this week after the Colombian government announced it will create a wilderness park and prohibit mining where EOM is planning a silver-gold mine. Local authorities and environmental groups oppose the Angostura silver-gold project, located in the northeast of the country, believing the area to be the source of rivers supplying water to 2.2 million inhabitants, according to Reuters.
Golden Star Resources (TSX:GSC,AMEX:GSS) announced that it has received environmental and mining permits for the first phase of developing the Prestea underground mine in Ghana. ”These permits allow the Company to commence initial development in the Central Shaft area in order to achieve early production and advance our infrastructure, with the long-term goal of transforming Prestea Underground into a modern, mechanized mine and a key contributor to lower cost gold production going forward,” said Sam Coetzer, president and CEO.
Securities Disclosure: I, Andrew Topf, hold an equity position in Goldcorp.