Brexit bullion: Fear of no-deal triggers Irish gold rush

Examples of gold bullion are on show at Merrion vaults in Dublin on January 7, 2019. In a vault under the streets of Dublin a pot of gold owned by anxious investors is growing every day Britain edges closer to leaving the EU without a deal. (AFP)
Updated 19 January 2019
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Brexit bullion: Fear of no-deal triggers Irish gold rush

DUBLIN: In a vault under the streets of Dublin a pot of gold owned by anxious investors is growing every day Britain edges closer to leaving the EU without a deal.
“They’re worried about a significant devaluation in sterling if there’s a hard Brexit,” said Seamus Fahy.
Fahy is co-founder of Merrion Vaults, a gold brokerage and safe deposit facility in the center of the Irish capital.
Over 2018 — as the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU turned from a scare story into a very real prospect — he has seen a 70 percent rise in clients from the British province of Northern Ireland.
“Customers are taking money — physical money — out of the bank and they’re buying gold bullion with us to store it, and it’s a hedge,” Fahy explained.
There is no equivalent facility in Northern Ireland.
With the border only an hour away it is no long trip to secure peace of mind as Britain risks a split with the EU critics are branding a “cliff-edge Brexit.”
Set in the basement of an unassuming grey office block, Merrion Vaults does not advertise its presence to passersby, marked only with a coy plaque reading “Merrion Private.”
Down an elevator, past a manned security booth and a fingerprint scanner — as well as a hefty metal safe door — is a caged vault, ranked with 3,000 double-locked deposit boxes.
Their full contents are known only to clients. But Fahy knows that inside many are glimmering stashes of gold.
Numerous customers have spent over £500,000 (560,000 euros) on their precious nest eggs.
The most popular items are one ounce (30 gram) gold bars and coins: handsomely polished South African Krugerrands, Canadian Maple Leafs and British Britannias worth in the region of £1,100 (1,200 euros) each.
They have increased in value by around 10 percent in the past six months, according to Fahy’s ledger.
When news of the 2016 Brexit vote broke, gold surged as sterling plunged to levels not seen since 1985.
The result was a historic 22 percent jump in gold valued in British currency terms.
In December, when British Prime Minister Theresa May pulled the parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal, Fahy also saw a “big uptick” in demand.
Pundits saw that as the most foreboding indication yet of a no-deal Brexit on March 29.
The prospect of the fallout sinking sterling seems to be making investors skittish.
“In times of crisis you always see what’s called this ‘flight to safety’ — so people go into US government bonds, gold bullion, Swiss francs etc.,” said Fahy.
The future status of Northern Ireland — the so-called “Irish backstop” — is at the crux of the Brexit conundrum and has added particular concerns on the island.
“You often see local events driving local demand,” said Alistair Hewitt, head of market intelligence at the World Gold Council.
But Hewitt said that the Brexit gold rush may have already peaked in the rest of Britain, with “an upsurge of activity” around the vote itself.
“Over the course of the past two years that’s probably petered out a little bit. I think lots of investors have probably suffered a bit of Brexit fatigue.”


US-China trade talks resume in Washington from Tuesday

Updated 51 min 57 sec ago
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US-China trade talks resume in Washington from Tuesday

  • The last set of talks ended Friday in Beijing with no deal
  • The next round of negotiations will commence with deputy-level meetings before moving on to principal-level talks on Thursday

WASHINGTON: US-China trade talks aimed at ending a damaging tariff war will resume from Tuesday in Washington, the White House has announced.
The last set of talks ended Friday in Beijing with no deal, though US President Donald Trump said the discussions were going “extremely well” and suggested he could extend a March 1 truce deadline for an agreement to be reached.
The next round of negotiations will commence with deputy-level meetings before moving on to principal-level talks on Thursday, a White House statement issued Monday said.
For the US, the talks will be led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, economic policy adviser Larry Kudlow, and trade adviser Peter Navarro.
China’s commerce ministry meanwhile announced it would be represented by Vice Premier Liu He, Beijing’s top trade negotiator.
On Friday, Trump re-iterated he might be willing to hold off on increasing tariffs to 25 percent from the current 10 percent on March 1 on $200 billion in Chinese goods if Washington and Beijing are close to finalizing an agreement to deal with US complaints about unfair trade and theft of American technology.
American officials accuse Beijing of seeking global industrial predominance through an array of unfair trade practices, including the “theft” of American intellectual property and massive state intervention in commodities markets.
Since a December detente, China has resumed purchases of some US soybeans and dangled massive buying of American commodities to get US trade negotiators closer to a deal.
The talks are aimed at “achieving needed structural changes in China that affect trade between the United States and China,” Monday’s statement said.
“The two sides will also discuss China’s pledge to purchase a substantial amount of goods and services from the United States.”
Beijing and Washington have imposed duties on more than $360 billion in two-way trade, which are weighing on their manufacturing sectors and have shaken global financial markets.