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Century-old gold price 'fix' swept away with ICE platform

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November 9
1:20 AM 2014

The curtain came down on nearly a century of tradition for bullion markets on Friday when U.S. bourse Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) was named as provider of an electronic benchmark gold price to replace the twice daily "fix".

Starting in 1919, representatives from a handful of banks agreed a price on which their customers - producers, consumers and investors - could trade and value gold and silver.

A twice-daily meeting in the offices of NM Rothschild & Co gave way to telephones in 2004. Now sweeping reform triggered by a push for more transparency has resulted in three different entities running price benchmarks for gold, silver, platinum and palladium.

ICE Benchmark Administration (IBA) will provide a physically settled, electronic and tradeable auction for what will become the LBMA Gold Price, the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) said on Friday.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange, jointly with Thomson Reuters, were named as the new operators of an auction-based silver price in August, while the London Metal Exchange will run the platinum and palladium fixes from December.

The companies that had proposed alternatives for the silver and platinum fixes always had in mind the bigger prize - the $5 trillion a year LBMA-cleared gold market.

"Many thought it was a two horse race between CME and LME - on the day, the outsider - ICE, won by putting in a good shift," broker Sharps Pixley CEO Ross Norman said.

ICE started to trade gold and silver spot, options and forward contracts in 2000.

"I would imagine that the market-making banks will be ready to participate from day one, this is different from the silver fix, the business is more valuable in terms of revenue, P&L and from a management perspective you would want all the protocol in place," Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar said.

There are six accredited companies for the LBMA silver price.

The LBMA expects eleven companies to participate in setting the gold price as soon as the platform goes live.

"We look forward to working closely with the LBMA and the precious metals industry as we deliver an IOSCO-compliant benchmark that fulfils the requirements of market participants in an efficient and transparent manner," ICE Benchmark Administration President Finbarr Hutcheson said.

Market participants said that although the benchmarks will initially be administered by different bodies, ultimately they could be consolidated into one platform, depending on their success, which would be measured by liquidity and interest.

"You probably can migrate later on to a different system if you want," an industry source said.

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