Gold pausing but a fresh record high remains the target
Following a strong run-up in prices since November, gold spent most of the second quarter consolidating after briefly reaching a fresh record high. Sentiment is currently challenged by the recent stock market rally and surging US bond yields amid the prospect for additional US rate hikes, the latter delaying the timing of a gold supportive peak in rates. So while the short-term outlook points to further consolidation below 2,000 dollars per ounce as we await incoming economic data, we keep an overall bullish outlook for gold and silver, driven among others by: continued dollar weakness; an economic slowdown, making current stock market gains untenable, leading to fresh safe-haven demand for precious metals; continued central bank demand providing a soft floor under the market; sticky US inflation struggling to reach the 2.5% long-term target set out by the US Federal Reserve (and if realised, it will likely to trigger a gold-supportive repricing of real yields lower), and a multipolar world raising the geopolitical temperature.
In addition, silver may benefit from additional industrial metal strength, which could see it outperform gold. Overall, and based on the expectations and assumptions mentioned, we see the potential for gold reaching a fresh record high above $2100 once the market gets confirmation a peak in rates has been reached.
Dr Copper: building a foundation
Copper spent most of the second quarter on the defensive, after a less commodity-intensive recovery in China upset expectations for a strong rebound in demand of key industrial metals. However, during June, the prospect of additional China economic stimulus and falling inventories at exchange-monitored warehouses to a five-month low helped trigger a change in sentiment from hedge funds who, up until then, had traded copper with a short bias.
Additional China stimulus or not, we view the current copper weakness as temporary, as the green transformation theme in the coming years will continue to provide strong tailwinds for so-called green metals, the king of which is copper – the best electrical-conducting metal needed in batteries, electrical traction motors, renewable power generation, energy storage and grid upgrades. Adding to a challenged production outlook as miners see lower ore grades, rising production costs, climate change and government intervention, as well as the ESG focus which reduces the available investment pool provided by banks and funds.
From its current level well below $4 we see the High Grade contract eventually move higher and reach a fresh record high, potentially not until the new year when the global growth outlook and the central bank rate focus turns to cuts from hiking.
Crude oil: FOMC versus OPEC
WTI and Brent crude oil’s sideway trading action since May looks set to continue into July with global economic growth concerns continuing to be offset by the willingness of key OPEC+ members to sacrifice revenues and market share to support the price. Overall, we believe prices are near a cycle low, but a few more challenging months cannot be ruled out, primarily because of worries that a robust pickup in demand, as forecast by OPEC and the IEA, will fail to materialise. The latter is potentially the reason Saudi Arabia took the unprecedented step of announcing a unilateral production cut shortly after the group announced production cutbacks.
It all adds up to what could become a challenging few months for OPEC, especially if demand should fail to recover with Saudi Arabia, then raising the pressure on other producers to curb production. For now, the de facto leader of OPEC has managed to send a signal of support which may help prevent a deeper correction, while an eventual price recovery, which we believe will occur, could be limited given the elevated level of spare capacity that sits ready to meet any pickup in demand, especially from key Middle East producers, which following the latest 1 million barrel a day production cut from Saudi Arabia now sits on an approximate 6 million barrels a day of spare production capacity.