(Bloomberg) — Spot gold is again bobbing along near $1,800 an ounce, as it has been since mid-2020. The stickiness of that level, particularly as fundamentals turned more bearish, suggests there’s a big buyer somewhere in these waters.

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Since breaking above the round number in July 2020, the gold price dipped below it 19 times on a closing basis, only to regain its footing. In the past year, the modeled value of gold, based on a regression study that includes the dollar, real rates and ETF holdings, dropped nearly 10%. Yet the metal’s price only fell around 2%. Clearly, there is a big buyer who considers the metal a long-term hold.

Such whale activity, which shows up neither in ETF holdings nor in futures positioning, would require a substantial buyer, accumulating in size in the London over-the-counter market. Yet vault holdings reported by the London Bullion Market Association, which include both ETF and some central bank-owned metal, show only a fractional increase in the year through December, from 307 million to 309 million troy ounces.

That would suggest that whoever is buying is able to buy in scale, leave little footprint in the market and then take delivery and store the metal in secure, invisible vaults. And that points strongly toward a sovereign buyer.

Central banks normally declare to the IMF the amounts of metal they have on their books. But there are precedents where this has been done with some delay. Between 2009 and 2015, China reported no change in holdings, only to reveal that it had bought 53 million ounces of metal over the period.

  • This was a post on Bloomberg’s Markets Live blog. The observations are those of the blogger and not intended as investment advice. For more markets analysis, go to MLIV on the Bloomberg Terminal.

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