Oil, gold prices surge over fears of attack on Syria

PHOTO: Oil, gold prices surge over fears of attack on Syria

All that glitters of late seems to be gold and oil, with their prices surging in recent days, largely as a result of fears of a United States-led attack on Syria.

But consumers in Singapore need not fear a sustained price rise, as analysts say these spikes are likely to be only temporary.

"The oil and gold rally is mainly due to the heightening possibility of military action against Syria. This prompts investors to start buying into safe haven assets like gold," said Phillip Futures senior dealer Lee Choong Kit.

A military strike on Syria could disrupt oil production in the Middle East, a major global supplier.

Crude oil prices have soared to a six-month high, with Brent - a major global barometer from Europe's North Sea - hitting US$116.61 a barrel on Wednesday. Prices have charged up nearly US$6 (S$7.70) in days, resulting in gains of almost US$10 this month.

Likewise, gold prices have jumped to a three-month high, hitting US$1,423 an ounce on Wednesday. The precious metal has grown pricier as the prospect of a Syrian conflict looms and investors take flight to safer assets.

It has now rallied more than 20 per cent since hitting a 34-month low of US$1,180.50 in June.

In fact, commodities are among the strongest performing assets this quarter with average gains of about 6 per cent, contrasting with losses in equity markets of 2 per cent to 3 per cent, noted Barclays.

However, experts said the recent price hikes are not sustainable. OCBC Bank commodities analyst Barnabas Gan said: "Economic fundamentals are currently not supportive of high oil prices, given the uncertainty in the global economy."

Mr Lee added: "As Syria is not a major oil producer... the upswing in crude oil may be temporary..."

Analysts tip oil prices to hover around the US$110 to US$115 range in the near term, owing to Middle East tensions, before correcting to about US$100 once these concerns recede.

Changes in crude oil prices usually filter through to the petrol pumps here in two to three weeks, while local electricity tariffs are reviewed quarterly.

As for gold, one key factor could be the US Federal Reserve's imminent cutting back of its massive monetary stimulus.

The Fed's tapering should result in the US dollar strengthening, which could mean a fall in the gold price.

Mr Lee said: "Investors looking to buy into gold as a safe haven asset during this Syria crisis should be more cautious. Should tapering occur, gold could fall back to US$1,200."

Another factor is weak demand.

"Gold still lacks sufficient demand from financial investors and we expect the gold price to fall to US$1,150 in six months", said UBS Wealth Management's head of commodity research Dominic Schnider.

alfoo@sph.com.sg


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