Shares To Sell Newcrest Mining Limited (NCM)

Newcrest Mining (NCM) is an Australian gold producer, with operations in Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and West Africa.

The group’s flagship mine is PNG-based, Lihir, with the other offshore operations being Gosowong in Indonesia, Hidden Valley (50%-owned) in PNG and Bonriko in Ivory Coast.

NSW-based Cadia Valley and WA-based Telfer make up the company’s domestic operations.

Gold weakness

This week the US Federal Reserve did what many expected it to do and that was announce plans to reduce stimulus.

Beginning in January, the Fed will reduce the amount of its monthly bond buying program – known as QE3 – by US$15 billion. Last night gold plunged more than 3% to its lowest settlement in over three years.

After a brief respite for gold between June and September, prices have begun heading south, culminating in last night’s plunge.

During that time, ETFs have continued to shed their bullion holdings and prices have been pressured by the additional supply coming onto the market.

The big slide in bullion reflects the strong likelihood that the Fed will reduce its stimulus by an even greater amount in 2014 as economic conditions in the US continue to improve.

Moreover, inflation is very low as this week’s US CPI numbers highlight. Inflation is running at 1.2% annual pace as at November, well below the Fed’s 2% threshold.

Gold is usually seen as a safe-haven alternative in times of rising inflation, so with consumer prices in the US rising at a snail’s pace there is less of an investment rationale to be holding bullion.

These factors are likely to persist into 2014, suggesting further downside for gold.

Cash cost squeeze

NCM’s cash costs for the September quarter were $1093 an ounce (oz), whilst the average realised gold price was $1442/oz.

With gold prices now trading below $1200/oz that implies NCM’s cash margin has plummeted by approximately 72% since the end of the September quarter, to just $97.

It also means that Lihir, with a cash cost of $1152/oz, Telfer, with a cash cost of $1296/oz and Bonriko, with a cash cost of $1889/oz, have essentially become cash flow negative and are not economically viable.