Gold bugs, conspiracy theorists, and perma bears had some unfamiliar company last year.

While traders, individuals, and ETF’s have been unloading gold for the past five years, central banks have been steady buyers.

Who had the biggest appetite for the barbarous relic? Russia, which has been accumulating the yellow metal to avoid economic sanctions imposed by the United States in the wake of their invasion of the Ukraine.

Hot on their heals was China, which has flipped to a large net importer of gold to meet insatiable demand from domestic investors.

It seems the Chinese stocks markets ($SSEC) were not the great trading opportunity they were hyped to be, which plunged 30% during the first two months of 2016, and is now 60% off its all time high. That’s a big deal in a country that has no social safety net.

Many Chinese now prefer to buy gold instead of stocks, which are now considered too risky for a personal nest egg. They are facilitated by the ubiquitous precious metal coin stores, which have recently sprung up like mushrooms in every city.

Only a few years ago, private ownership of gold resulted in China having your organs harvested by the government.

Central bank sellers have been few and far between. Venezuela has dumped about half its reserve to head off a recurring liquidity crisis. Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds cashed in some chips to deal with the oil price crash.

Canada has also been selling for reasons unknown to us south of the border.

All of this poses a really interesting question. Gold fell for the four consecutive years that central banks were buying, and the rest of the world was selling.

What happens when the rest of the world flips to the buy side?

My guess is that it goes up, which is why I have issued long side trade Alerts on gold every month this year.

Depending on who you talk to, the magical support level were you get back in for another visit to the trough is $1,199 or, $1,200.

In the meantime, I think I’ll run my (GLD) April 15 $$109-$112 vertical bull call spread into expiration in eight trading days.

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