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A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY? by Barbara Režek; The Slovenia Times, 30th March 2007

The price of gold has gone up 137.24% in the last five years, with the biggest jump in price occurring after 9/11. According to the World Gold Council, there are around 30,000 tons of gold in central bank vaults around the world.

If a few years back, you invested your savings in gold, then by now you will have made quite a profit. The price of gold has gone up 137.24% in the last five years (as priced in US dollars), and silver has gone up even more, by 174%. In comparison, during the same time period the price of crude oil has gone up 185%, copper has gone up a whopping 400%, and aluminium 82%. The price of gold on the world market is still increasing.

Slovenia does not have much of a gold reserve; data from the World Gold Council (WGC) puts us in the 74th place among 110 countries. According to WGC statistics, central banks around the world hold about 30,000 tons of gold; the largest share, which amounts to 8,135 tons, belongs to the American central bank. In Europe, Germany, with 3,427.8 tons, has the largest reserve. France has 2,790.9 tons and Italy has 2,451.8 tons. States like China, India and Russia are constantly enlarging their gold reserve. Just the opposite is happening in Slovenia. The Bank of Slovenia holds 5.1 tons of gold – which is 2.5 tons less than at the end of last year. We wanted to know the reason for this decrease. “Gold is just one part of the country’s finances, which are managed by the Bank of Slovenia. In accordance with market changes and criteria for asset management, the Bank of Slovenia adjusts and changes its asset structure to ensure the best possible management,” read a statement from the PR office of the Bank of Slovenia.

The most important cities for gold trading remain London, Zurich and Tokyo. The largest gold mines in the world are in North America, Australia, South Africa and Russia. The size of national gold reserves around the world has not changed much in the last few years, particularly not in the countries which hold the largest shares. This is partly to do with the Washington treaty between many central banks, which states that countries cannot sell more then 500 tons of gold per year from their reserves and no more then 2,500 tons in five years.

The market comes full circle

“In seven years, the market has come full circle in many ways: the price of gold climbed to above USD 700/ounce, then dropped to below USD 600/ounce, a level last seen in 1981. Central bank activity in the gold market is not considered a threat anymore. The agreements of 1999 and 2004 between 15 European central banks – the so-called “Washington Agreements” – have removed much of the uncertainty surrounding central bank sales. Indeed, market rumours today are arguably more focused on central banks buying gold than they are about central banks selling gold,” said Philipp Hildebrand, a member of the Governing Board of the Swiss National Bank, at the LBMA Conference which was held at the end of June in Montreux, Switzerland.
In Europe, private Swiss banks hold a large quantity of gold. The exact amount is not known since the data is not public. The Swiss central bank holds 1,290.1 tons of gold. “But we now see some Asian countries transferring their gold from Swiss banks to banks back home,” said Irena Moro, owner of Moro & Kunst, the only company in Slovenia that trades gold and other precious metals. They are working together with the 800-year-old Austrian coin minters Münze Osterreich from Vienna. The company’s web site www.moro.si displays prices which are updated several times a day. The first update is made at 9 a.m., when trading begins. At 2 p.m., the New York stock exchange opens and the price usually goes up a bit, but later in the afternoon it usually goes down again. During the night, with Asian trading open, the price could be higher than during the day but this is not a rule. This is why they do not change the price list exactly at 3 p.m. At that time, they advise their clients to wait until 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., or even until midnight.

The price of gold

The price of gold on the London stock exchange is set in US dollars, Swiss francs and Euros. At the same time, on world stock exchanges (www.kitco.com), the price is based in US dollars, but is also shown in other world currencies. In the aforementioned Slovenian company they trade in US dollars converted into Euros .
In Slovenia, the business is run in accordance with article 52 of the value-added tax act (taken from the EU act), which states that trading in gold is tax-free and involves no sales fees. The EU commission passed this act to prevent black market trading. Because of this, we know the exact amount of gold that arrives through their supplier to Moro & Kunst. The supplier is obligated to send a report every three months to the World Gold Council, declaring the amount of gold being sold into Slovenia. The company also belongs to the London Bullion Market Association – a group of traders, banks, coin mints and gold mining companies. Irena Moro explains: “For now, we are an associated member, which means that we are being tested. Each member must show five years of trouble-free business before they are granted full admission to the association. When we become a full member, which is our aim, we will also begin trading abroad. To make this happen we must comply with some other conditions, one of which is that the price in ounces of gold and for gold bars does not exceed 10% above the price on the stock exchange. The goal is to offer investors the right price, depending on the stock exchange value.”

52% tax on gold in Croatia

Moro & Kunst represents seven of the world’s coin mints. They also serve as an intermediary between Slovenia and Croatia, since the two countries’ markets are very different. “We cover both markets from Ljubljana. The trading in Croatia has not picked up yet since in Croatia gold sales are taxed at 52% (22% VAT and 30% luxury tax). In Croatia, gold has not yet being recognized as a means of payment, they do business according to some old laws, which are not yet in line with EU acts. Therefore, some Croatians come to Slovenia for gold,” said Irena Moro.
Gold – in the form of coins or bars – can be a good investment for the future, as well as a nice business or personal gift. Regardless of the shape you choose, the price is going up. How much and for how long? Irena Moro sums up why experts say the price of gold will continue to rise. “The reason is that in Asia, individuals as well as banks, are buying a lot of gold as an investment. In Asia, people have not traditionally invested in stock. Also, the uncertainty after 9/11 led to an increase in investment in gold in the U.S. This year, for the first time in history the U.S has issued a one-ounce coin, called the American Buffalo, which is made out of pure gold. It is considered a recognized mean of payment – a so-called bullion coin – the value of which is determined on the stock exchange. The value of gold is rising, as well as the value of silver, copper and aluminium. The exception is palladium, which is still decreasing in value. The amount of gold mined is nearly equal every year at around 2,500 tons, and new gold mines are not opening up. This year, there are 480 fewer tons of gold on the world market, according to WGC data. The main buyers will remain private investors and national banks.”

With the current trend, gold bars are possibly becoming as attractive as gold jewellery…