Gold was pushed below the $1.585 level in mid-morning trading, as sell stops were triggered on a sell-off in light volume. Silver dropped below the $27.60 mark. There's always the danger of higher volatility in light volume, as has occurred today.
In Europe, stocks and the common currency have firmed up as it seems that Cyprus is not going to blow up, even in the face of record Eurozone unemployment and a manufacturing sector that is shrinking at an accelerated pace. EU manufacturing PMI recorded contraction again this month, worsening to 46.8 from February's 47.9. This was actually not as bad as the expected 46.6 measurement.
With capital controls in place in Cyprus and no ensuing riots, tension in European markets has eased somewhat. Italian and Spanish bond yields have calmed down, and demand for German bunds as a safe haven has eased. The Finance Minister of Cyprus resigned today, to be replaced by a committee tasked with finding out just how the banking system of the small island nation got itself into this mess.
The dollar is up on the Euro news and a weakening yen, while oil is slightly lower after hitting a six-week high Monday. Wall St. is opening higher, after being depressed over disappointing manufacturing numbers in both the U.S. and China. The S&P 500 will make another run at an all-time high today. Investors continue to sell stakes in gold ETFs to chase the equity train, yet physical gold purchases remain strong. This emphasizes the difference between short-term and long-term outlooks on gold. Since ETF shares trade on the market like stocks, it is easy for day traders to move in and out of positions.
The Nikkei hit a 4-week low in Japan as exporters were hammered by the disappointing industrial numbers out of the U.S. and China, coupled with a stronger yen. Part of the decline in stocks was attributed to profit taking after a very profitable quarter. Chinese stocks were lower for a fourth day.
North Korea announced that it would be restarting both a uranium enrichment plant and a nuclear reactor that was decommissioned in 2007 in return for food aid. However, experts note that the cooling tower of the obsolete Soviet-era reactor was demolished when the plant was shut down, and it would be a while before it could once again produce plutonium. There was a change in the rhetoric from North Korean dictator Kim Song-Un during this announcement, casting the move as building a deterrent against invasion, rather than threatening to rain radioactive destruction on its enemies. This may signal a stepping down of the latest tantrum from Pyongyang, and has not affected gold prices.