(Bloomberg) -- The London gold market will need to allow delivery outside of the city if the coronavirus pandemic leads to more stringent travel restrictions, the chief executive of the London Bullion Market Association said.
The U.K.’s capital has been a key hub for global gold trading since at least 1732, when the Bank of England first established a vault in the city. As the coronavirus snarls global logistics, traders are being forced to consider what would happen if gold could no longer be shipped in and out of London.
A record of 8,326 tons of gold were stored in London vaults by the end of December, and being able to move the metal is crucial for the global market.
“What about if you had airports closing, or further restrictions in terms of travel?” Ruth Crowell said by phone. “We’ve started conversations about other key financial centers and having cooperation when it comes to settlements in vaults around the world.”
Any decision on delivery is ultimately down to the bullion banks who are the LBMA’s core members, she said.
“There’s a lot of things that have to be taken into consideration in terms of tax regimes, legal questions. It’s not something you can just switch on,” Crowell said.
Clearing companies and their partners have to gauge both the current situation and how they will work when the market returns to some level of normality. “Making sure that if you are reducing risk in one part you are not adding more risk to the overall infrastructure,”she said.
The global gold market has been tested in the past month as lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus have shut or slowed some metal producers and cut travel at a time when demand for bullion has surged. The historic disruption has fueled volatility, with prices in key hubs moving apart.
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There have been no reported Covid-19 cases in London vaults so far, according to Crowell. Vault providers have an agreement to support each other if a storage facility were to go down.
While global travel remains disrupted, logistics problems are easing as suppliers turn to chartered flights, and insurance companies are covering those flights to carry the metal, Crowell said. The supply situation has also improved after three major Swiss refineries restarted after a shut down early April.
Some parts of the world, notably China, are coming back to work. That adds “more enthusiasm and optimism about getting back to the business that we all had prior to this crisis,” she said.
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