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Safe havens gain traction as trade war escalates



ETF Securities Weekly Flows Analysis - Safe havens gain traction as trade war escalates

ETF Securities Weekly Flows Analysis – Safe havens gain traction as trade war escalates


  • Safe haven demand drives US$23.9mn into long gold ETPs and US$28.1mn into long silver ETPs.
  • Geopolitical risk led to US$21mn outflows from industrial metals basket.
  • Long crude oil ETP inflows reach a seven-week high of US$20.6mn.

Trade wars escalate. When we first reported on the US tariffs, the Chinese retaliation was very limited, but we noted that it did not preclude further action. Last week we saw China announce a 25% tariff on 106 US goods targeting roughly US$50bn of imports (based on 2017 trade), matching the US’s target of US$50bn of Chinese imports into US. The tit-for-tat trade war has started. US President Trump then threatened a further set of tariffs on US$100bn of Chinese imports. This does not bode well for cyclical assets. Trade wars rarely end up with anyone as a winner. White House’s National Economic Council Director, Larry Kudlow’s, efforts to assuage markets worked temporarily, but lacked credibility after Trump made his recent treats. China said it will counter US protectionism “to the end and at any cost” after Trump’s threats, leaving little room to diffuse the impasse.

Safe haven demand drove US$23.9mn into long gold ETPs, US$28.1mn into long silver ETPs and US$6.9mn into broad precious metal basket ETPs. Inflows into gold have been over US$20mn for three weeks running as safe havens appear to be back in demand. In the past ten weeks there has only been one week of outflows from silver (a minor $2.6mn). In fact over the past (trailing) month, we have seen the highest inflows into silver since June 2017. Inflows into silver ETPs come as a sharp contrast to the investor sentiment in the silver futures market where net positioning is at its most negative ever. The escalation of a trade war adds to the political uncertainty following the hiring a Iran/North Korea policy hawk two weeks ago. With China being such an important broker of diplomacy between in the US and North Korea, antagonising the country appears risky a month before a potential meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. While gold prices have not appreciated meaningfully yet, the rising geopolitical risks could send its price substantially higher. Investors seem to be positioning in safe havens as a hedge against adverse outcomes. Friday’s worse-than-expected labour market report provided a tail-wind for gold as it reduces the need for the Federal Reserve to be hawkish.

Geopolitical risk led to US$21mn outflows from industrial metals baskets. Outflows from industrial metals reached an eight-week high. Cyclicals are likely to perform badly if global economic growth takes a hit from rising protectionism.

Long crude oil ETP inflows reach a seven-week high of US$20.6mn. As crude oil prices fell 3.1% last week, investors bought long crude ETPs and took profits on their short oil ETP positions (US$3.3mn). While investors were bargain-hunting, we think that better entry points could open up. At current prices, we expect US production of oil to continue to rise. In its May meeting we expect OPEC to begin discussing how to taper off its current production curbs in 2019. The treat of a trade war should also weigh on oil prices if global demand is dented. Demand expectations from International Energy Agency already look too optimistic. It is a hard to imagine demand continuing to grow at the pace we saw last year at higher prices.

Important Information


This communication has been issued and approved for the purpose of section 21 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 by ETF Securities (UK) Limited (“ETFS UK”) which is authorised and regulated by the United Kingdom Financial Conduct Authority (the “FCA”).
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