A gold recovery needs drivers to align
Head of Commodity Strategy
Summary: The rollercoaster ride seen recently in gold and silver highlights the intense focus on yields and the dollar, and the timing of when the Federal Reserve may reach a level of peak hawkishness. While last week's short covering squeeze highlighted the upside potential to prices when the tide turns, all the ducks are not yet lined up properly to support a sustained recovery. In this we focus on the latest developments and why we maintain a longterm bullish outlook for gold and precious metals in general
Commodity markets continue to attract a great deal of directional inspiration from the price action across financial markets with traders and investors trying to gauge the risk and potential depth of an economic slowdown by watching developments in stocks, bonds and forex. A focus which during the past two week sent precious metals on major rollercoaster ride.
Having been under pressure for months in response to hawkish central bank actions to curb inflation through aggressive rate hikes, gold and silver both caught a bid on premature expectations – as it turned out – that the US Federal Reserve was getting close to peak hawkishness. This after a couple of US economic data print at the beginning of the month turned out to be on the weak side. The result was a few days that, until Friday’s stronger-than-expected US job report, saw the dollar and US bond yields trade sharply lower thereby supporting a strong bounce across most metals, both precious and industrial.
Responding to these developments silver, having already found support and started to recover from atwo-year low at $17.60 per ounce reached last month, soared higher with gold following suit. However, while silver reached a four-month high, gold only managed a three-week high at $1730 before reversing lower last Friday.
Looking at recent changes in the Commitment of Traders Reports we can, not surprisingly, conclude that the initial rally was driven by money managers reducing recently established short positions. In the week to October 4 which covered the mentioned rally, the net position held by this group of speculators saw a dramatic shift from the biggest short in almost four years to a small net-long. In silver meanwhile, the change was less severe with traders already holding a small net long when the rally occurred.
ETF holdings, meanwhile, has continued its steady decline, down by around 10% year-to-date, another sign that last week’s bounce was primarily driven by short covering and not a belief that the recovery had started.
What we can conclude from these price movements is that both gold and silver look set to benefit from the eventual turnaround in the dollar and yields, hence the continued focus on inflation and economic data for sign of any weakness to support a shift in the hawkish stance being signalled by the Federal Reserve. The first potential sign came on Monday when Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard laid out the case for exercising caution, noting that the previous increases are still working through the economy at a time of high global and financial uncertainty.
Looking ahead we see no reason to change our long-term bullish view on gold with support potentially coming from the risk of a policy mistake sending US economic growth, the dollar and bond yields lower. In addition, we fear that the long-term inflation level may end up at a somewhat higher level than is currently being priced in by the market. Failure to bring long term inflation down towards market expectations may trigger a major, and gold supportive, realignment between (rising) breakeven yields and (falling) real yields.
Gold’s ability to act as a diversifier has increasingly been called into question in recent months with the metal falling despite seeing inflation at the highest level in four decades. Once again, however, it is important to note that gold as an integrated part of financial markets will continue to be impacted by movements and correlations to other markets, especially yields and the dollar. Gold trades down by 9% in a year where the Bloomberg Dollar index trades up 15% and where 10-year US real yields have surged higher by 2.7%, the latter effectively indicating gold should be trading 300 dollars lower at this point.
The reason why it is not in our opinion is the continued demand for an insurance against a policy mistake, higher than expected future inflation and a geopolitical event. All risks worth holding an insurance against, not least considering how poorly other investments such as bonds and stocks have performed this year.
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