Friday, September 26, 2008

Gold coin sales halted again

The rush by retail investors into gold on Thursday forced the US government to “temporarily” suspend the sales of the popular American Buffalo one-ounce bullion coin after depleting its inventories.

The shortage of gold coins is the latest sign of investors seeking a safe haven into bullion amid Wall Street woes. Gold prices this week surged above $900 an ounce, up about 20 per cent from its level before the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Safe-haven buying spurred by a weakening dollar and rising inflation on the back of high commodity prices have also benefited gold sales, analyst said.

The US Mint said in a memorandum that “demand has exceeded supply” and, therefore, it was “temporarily suspending sales of these coins”. “We are working ­diligently to build up our inventory and hope to resume sales shortly,” it added.

Spot gold in New York on Thursday traded at $875 an ounce, down $5 on the day. Traders said bullion prices came under pressure from a strengthening in the dollar. Gold set a record of $1,030.80 an ounce in March.

The US Mint said it has sold 164,000 ounces of gold in American Buffalo one-ounce bullion coins since January, almost 54 per cent more than in the same period of last year. Demand for other gold coins from the US Mint is also very strong.

Last August, a shortage of American Eagles one-ounce bullion coins, another popular gold investment, due to “unprecedented demand” also forced the US Mint to suspend sales and later to place limits on the number it ships to dealers.

The US Mint has sold since last January about 419,500 ounces of bullion in the form of American Eagles coins, more than double the 198,500 ounces it sold during the whole 2007. In 2006, it sold 261,000 ounces.

The scarcity of gold coins comes as investors in bullion-backed exchange traded funds (ETFs) have amassed a record 1,054 tonnes of bullion, becoming the largest holders of gold after the reserves of the US, Germany, the International Monetary Fund, Italy, France and Switzerland.

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