Gold rallied early this morning as April retail sales in the U.S. came in at 0.1%, far below expectations. Non-auto retail sales were flat.
Gold had seen slight weakness in Asia over concerns over the Chinese junk bond market, with a further dip on news that the German central bank was encouraging the ECB to take monetary easing measures to weaken the euro.
The news itself did a good job of weakening the European common currency to a five-week low. This enabled the dollar to rise above 80 on the DXY dollar index for the first time in over a month, putting a slight downward pressure on gold. However, the weak retail sales in the U.S. reversed the dollar rally, and allowed gold to jump to just under the $1,300 mark at $1,299.90. Silver has been following gold's lead.
Murder in Rustenburg
Four people who worked at platinum mines in Rustenburg, South Africa, have been murdered in the last three days, apparently as retribution for crossing the picket lines of AMCU. AMCU has been on strike since January 23, demanding a 140% increase in base pay for entry-level workers, and large raises for others. The strike has been marred by assaults on workers from other unions, who are not taking part in the strike.
Three of the people were killed with machetes, while a fourth worker was burned to death inside his shanty. Six other people have been violently assaulted in the area where the first person was killed, for crossing picket lines.
Mining companies Lonmin, Anglo American and Implats issued a joint statement that there had been “at least 20 reported acts of assault over the last two days and a number of serious incidents of intimidation against employees and bus operators providing transport to mining company employees”. The three companies have lost over $1.7 billion in revenues in the 15-week long strike, and have said that some of the idle mine shafts will have to be closed down due to deteriorating circumstances underground. AMCU has threatened more strikes if any shafts are closed, or any workers laid off, even though an estimated 40% of platinum mines are losing money at current wage levels.
The new wave of killings has sent platinum prices higher.