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'Strong support' for gold market reform: industry body

LONDON -- The World Gold Council (WGC), an influential industrial body, said Monday there is “strong support” for its plan to reform a century-old method of setting the price of gold in London.

“There was strong support for the World Gold Council's key principles for reform,” senior WGC official Natalie Dempster said in a statement after a meeting here to discuss changes.

“We are at the start of a process that will lead to a reformed and modernized gold benchmark which attracts a broader range of market participants,” added Dempster, whose official title is managing director, central banks and public policy.

She spoke after the WGC convened a debate on how to modernize the so-called London Gold Fix. A total of 34 delegates representing all sectors of the industry attended, including central banks, bullion banks and trading exchanges.

Among the key points in the discussion is “the need for a single, trusted, benchmark reference price,” the statement said.

London's Gold Fix, the global benchmark, affects the flow of billions of dollars worldwide every day. But it has been tainted by a rigging scandal and attacked by critics as old-fashioned.

Analysts believe that the market price of gold, which is driven by investment and jewelry demand, could climb as a result of an overhaul.

The benchmark gold price is set by four banks at 10:30 a.m. London time (0930 GMT) and 3 p.m., via teleconference.

The banks — Britain's Barclays and HSBC, Canada's Scotiabank and Societe Generale of France — are all members of the Gold Fixing Company and agree the price twice daily. Germany's Deutsche Bank pulled out of the panel earlier this year.

The process begins with the so-called spot price of gold, which is based on the current market rate of contracts for physical delivery of the metal.

The four banks must then declare whether they are interested in buying or selling at this level. The price can fluctuate depending on the balance of supply and demand, and settles on a “fixing.”

The system lurched into crisis this year when Barclays was fined more than 26 million pounds (US$45 million) by British regulators after a ex-trader at the troubled bank admitted attempting to manipulate the gold price.

The gold market remains subject to volatility as the metal is often seen as a haven investment in times of geopolitical uncertainty.

In recent weeks, violence in Iraq has sent traders fleeing to gold.

Gold jumped last week to a 3.5-month spot price high of US$1,334.06 per ounce on the London Bullion Market.

Prices had rocketed to an all-time peak of US$1,921.15 per ounce in September 2011 on fears of a fresh global recession amid the raging eurozone debt crisis.

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