Am I chastened by the gold crash? Yes. Have I changed my views? No.

Gold bounces back from "flash crash".

A few weeks ago I wrote in this blog words to the effect that I was surprised that gold had not reacted more positively to the Bank of Japan’s massive programme of Quantitative easing. As can be the case, failure on the part of the markets to react in the expected fashion to a piece of news, such as the BOJ’s QE, was THE most valuable of market indicators, giving the clearest possible indication of market positioning, and hence we saw gold’s "flash crash" on 15th April.

Am I chastened? Yes. Have I changed my medium-term view that gold is a must-have holding for any portfolio? No.

Since that day, when gold futures hit a low of $1361.10 per Troy ounce, gold has bounced back to $1470 as I write - a rise of 8 per cent and a pretty good "dead-cat" bounce.

Among the many theories propounded to explain the "flash crash" was that which suggested that investors took fright as, such was the size of the BOJ’s money-printing operation, the US Federal Reserve may feel the pressure had been taken off to perpetuate its own QE programme. Any such fears have subsequently been put to rest , first by a concerted barrage of dovish comment from the Federal Reserve’s ruling elite, and then by anaemic  1st quarter US GDP figures, which went to underline the need for continued monetary accommodation in the US.

It seems likely that the BOJ’s QE may have inspired locals to become bullish on the prospects for domestic investments, such as equities, leading them to liquidate holdings in other assets, such as gold, to bring money home.

Now the dust has settled, investors are once again focussing on the almost ubiquitous use of quantitative easing to combat economic stagnation and also the stealthy way in which central banks’ mandates have quietly been tweaked to focus less on inflation and more on employment.

I believe we will look back on the gold "flash crash" of April 15th 2013 and see it in the same light as the US stock market "flash crash" of May 6th 2010, which may well have shared some of the same causes, and which in retrospect represented a great buying opportunity.

Chairman of  Saxo Capital Markets Board

An Honours Graduate from Oxford University, Nick Beecroft has over 30 years of international trading experience within the financial industry, including senior Global Markets roles at Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Citibank. Nick was a member of the Bank of England's Foreign Exchange Joint Standing Committee.

More of his work can be found here.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.